Saturday, June 11, 2016

Jason and the Argonauts


   While it belongs to the sword & sandal genre and not the sword & sorcery genre, it's all the same thing when all is said and done. I'm sure somewhere there's a mythology buff who just got angry with me, but I don't care. Brave men against impossible odds, larger than life gods, mythical monsters, fanatical villains, and epic quests full of heroism and danger? Both genres are full of this stuff. The last act of Jason and the Argonauts could very well belong to a Conan movie. It's dark, mysterious, and full of monsters! The stuff that the fantasy genre thrives on. Jason and the Argonauts sets a a high and shining standard for any similar genre flick, which is no small feat.

Deathstalker IV: Match of the Titans


   You thought I was done with these crappy movies? You thought wrong! Although there's no pride in that statement. Despite the fact they somehow got Rick Hill to return to the eponymous role, Deathstalker IV is a criminal bore. They didn't just get Rick Hill to return, they got all the other movies to return as well. SO friggin' much of this one is just recycled footage from the previous movies, and possibly some other movies as well. This movie isn't even 80 minutes long with both the opening and closing credits, and on top of that, something like 40-45% of the movie is just recycled footage? I doubt there's even a solid hour of new material. That's the sum of Deathstalker IV, for better or worse. Definitely for worse.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse


   I'll just come straight out and say it: I liked X-Men: Apocalypse. I actually really enjoyed it. Then again... it probably helps that I went in with rock bottom expectations, and that for the past month I've (almost) exclusively been watching the cheapest, dumbest, most mind-numbing sword & sorcery movies I could get my hands on. A lot of people are tiring of these kinds of movies, but personally, I haven't been awash in big budget comic book extravaganza lately. I haven't even seen Captain America: Civil War or Batman V Superman for that matter. I was as open to this movie as anyone could possibly be, and I simply wanted to have fun. As an undemanding audience, that's exactly what I had.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Deathstalker III: The Warriors From Hell


   Argh! More than just bad sound effects and a amazingly generic set up (in stark contrast to the whole concept of clones in the previous movie) Deathstalker faces his worst foe yet: bland filmmaking. Falling prey to a host of fresh issues to the franchise, this movie is pretty darn bad, and it's positive aspects never really catch up to the rest of it. It doesn't backfire onto itself quite the way that say... Captain America (1990) did. Yet, it's inept in all the ways the previous films weren't. Or... wait, rather, they're more inept in the same things, or... something. For some damn reason... Deathstalker III just... isn't much fun.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans


   There's a stupid and nostalgic charm to the B section of the sword and sorcery genre. It's junk like this that forms a solid foundation that still supports movies like Conan The Barbarian and Lord of the Rings to this day. It filled out the genre, helping to popularize it in a cheap and accessible way promising trashy and pulpy one-off adventures to 'lands undreamed' of, and if the crappy special effects, poorly choreographed swordplay and grade-A nudity satisfied you, there were probably a half dozen sequels and lookalikes to sate your appetite next time as well. That's the kind of movie Deathstalker II is. Nothing more, nothing less.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Deathstalker


   Would anyone believe I've seen worse? I know that sounds like a flimsy defense, but it's not a defense at all. Movies like Deathstalker, and there's an unholy lot of them, are naturally indefensible. They're just... bad. But why is their brand of bad so appealing and modern day bad is so... un-fun? How can a movie as poorly acted, cliched and as downright stupid as Deathstalker be so ridiculously entertaining? Well, I can't speak for any other flicks, but Deathstalker is almost self aware. Almost. If I didn't know better, and I do... I'd be certain it was. If anything, it does have a much needed sense of humor, and while it's far from high brow stuff, it fits the movie really well.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Hercules


   I was floored to find out Hercules was a Brett Ratner film. Aside from one or two gems/guilty pleasures in his directorial filmography, he's mostly done... crap. And, if not crap, obscure and uninteresting stuff. He's the guy responsible for the absolute worst X-Men movie. Yet, despite my disinterest in his movies, I found Hercules to be an interesting and fun flick. It's not great, but it's slick, well made, and entertaining. From the trailers, I had expected this to be a big mindless CGI fest, but it really wasn't. I mean, there's a lot of hate for the movie online, but I think audiences these days are in auto-dislike mode. Nothing satisfies anyone anymore.

Kull The Conqueror


   My sword and sorcery binge has taken me to strange places, but the general consensus about Kull is that it's a total misfire. So after the Conan movies, and Beastmaster... would this be considered slumming it? Whatever it is, it certainly isn't rock bottom. Though Kull might certainly line the bottom of a DVD bargain bin, and it might just be the best thing down there you've never seen.When you've seen bits of movies like Barbarian Queen and Deathstalker (which I might yet get around to reviewing) you know how low the bar can get for movies like this. Kull isn't bad, and it's isn't great either. It straddles the line between adequate and mediocre in every way that matters.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Beastmaster


    That Conan reboot about finished me with my sword & sorcery binge, but luckily The Beastmaster saved the day. This movie is almost everything anyone could want from a movie like this. It's full of adventure and action, vile villains and vast landscapes, eye catching visuals and beautiful women. The Beastmaster has it in spades. It follows a Conan-esque formula, without ever being a rip-off. It's protagonist might be a bit stiff at times, but he has enough personality to set him apart from the average barbarian. In fact, he's not a barbarian at all. Oddly enough, he has more in common with Luke Skywalker than he does Conan. That is, if Luke wore a loincloth and was completely ripped.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Conan The Barbarian (2011)


   Color me unimpressed with this reboot of the iconic Cimmerian's film franchise. I wanted to like it, I really wanted to, but very few things stuck the landing for my taste. It's not the writing, or the acting that I took issue with- as a fan of the Clash of the Titans remake and it's sequel, I'd be absurdly hypocritical if those were the things that broke this movie for me. Unfortunately, it's the story, the look, the design, and even the casting of the eponymous barbarian that killed it for me. This just doesn't feel like Conan to me. It's an adequate sword and sorcery flick, but it fails to hit the right notes for me- feeling like a movie assembled by people only vaguely familiar with the genre.

Conan The Destroyer


   Conan The Destroyer is half the movie I had wanted Conan The Barbarian to be when I was younger. It's faster, it's more action packed, the plot is much more straightforward, and admittedly the movie is a lot of fun. So what's the problem? The problem is that it doesn't feel like a sequel to it's predecessor at all. A lot of people blame the PG rating, but the problem is deeper than that. Even deeper than the studio interference- though no doubt that did make it worse. The problem here is that this movie is the exact opposite of everything the first one was.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Conan The Barbarian


   I'm not someone who fell in love with this movie the first time they saw it. I'm only 22, so I didn't see this in 1982. I didn't see it when I was young. This wasn't my introduction to sword & sorcery. I grew up with Willow, Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings, Masters of the Universe and eventually the live action Lord of the Rings movies. I also grew up with just about every other one of Schwarzenegger's movies. Terminator 1 & 2, Predator, Total Recall, Commando- you name it. So when I first saw Conan The Barbarian, I expected to love it. It was going to be a balls-to-the-wall, hack n' slash flick, with untold gallons of blood spilled, and non-stop action! Only... it wasn't...

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dragonslayer


   I guess I'm on a fantasy kick now? Worse things have happened. Anyways, standing in almost stark contrast to DragonHeart, the Disney/Paramount fantasy flick, Dragonslayer is darker, bloodier, bigger, and ultimately... better. When I think of dragons in movies, the mental images that my mind conjures up are exactly the kind of things on display in this movie. I've never seen in before, but that hardly mattered. Dragonslayer is a movie that will be intimately familiar to anyone who grew up on Disney movies, and the odd Barbarian flick on the side. It's Disney for grown ups- and in this movie, that actually means something.

DragonHeart


   Who wouldn't like to see a movie where Sean Connery voices a CGI dragon? Eat your heart out Cumberbatch. DragonHeart is one such movie, and it also features Dennis Quaid putting on a grizzled voice and rocking a medieval hairdo. This is already fantastic. Also, David Thewlis plays a villain and he's so clearly channeling Alan Rickman's sheriff of Notingham. It's a performance full of scenery chewing, and it's wonderful. Overall, DragonHeart is a harmless, straightforward adventure flick that never reaches the heights of genre classics, but also manages to be a few cuts above bargain bin material. It's simple, and that's okay.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Gods of Egypt


   It always strikes me funny that movies like this (i.e. big, historically inaccurate, blockbuster, action movies) get so much flak. People complained about Sam Worthington's haircut in the Clash of the Titans remake... of all things. In the midst of a movie that doesn't give one single crap about logic or the laws of physics, people decide to complain about a haircut. That's the nature of the complaints behind Gods of Egypt. This movie is one that you shouldn't engage on any logical level. It's like the cover of a heavy metal album, or a flashy video game cutscene. On those merits, Gods of Egypt is the best kind of over-the-top, big, dumb, fun.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Band of the Hand


   I knew I'd seen this exact same premise in motion before... on an episode of MacGyver. Which I can only assume came out around the time of the movie's release, to cash in on it's success. However, it's not like there's any quality competition here. As much as I love Richard Dean Anderson and his rad mullet, this urban action flick, Band of the Hand, by director Paul Michael Glaser is just as rad. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, but this tale of reformed hoodlums becoming street justice vigilantes is everything I could've wanted it to be. It's slick, funny, dark, serious, action packed, and never dull.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Full Contact


   I told you guys! I talked about this! About how club scenes are a key ingredient in a healthy number of action movies. It's a freakin' staple of the genre. Nightclubs, techno-clubs, rave clubs, and strip clubs, (book clubs?) only exist so guys like Chow Yun Fat, Keanu Reeves, Wesley Snipes, and Arnold Schwarzenegger can walk through them in slow motion, and eventually whip out some guns and unleash pure chaos. Full Contact is no exception. It has it's club scene shootout, and it's glorious. One of the most stylish and creative shootouts I've seen in ages. If you're an HK action buff, Full Contact is one to seek out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Mission


   Johnnie To is a name I really should be more familiar with by now. He's one of the genre juggernauts when it comes to HK crime thrillers. As far as I know though, The Mission is my first To flick, and it made a hell of a first impression. A straightforward story is balanced with calculated shootouts and a timely sense of humor. I've seen enough HK cinema that I recognized most of the actors here, even if I couldn't pick em out by name. The whole cast was turning in great performances, it was entrancing. The Mission kept me glued to the screen from beginning to end. Can't complain about this lean little crime thriller.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Family Fang


   I realize I run a semi-niche blog, and that most of my readers probably won't flock to a dramady like this, but I've realized lately that I've inadvertently saddled myself with the reputation of a guy who only watches genre flicks. Only horror. Only sci-fi. Only action. Those might be my favorite genres, but I don't discriminate. I love film, period. Experimental, comedy, drama, romance. All of it. And, the one name I've learned to pay attention to over the past couple years is Jason Bateman. He's been consistently fantastic in everything I've seen him in, and The Family Fang is no exception.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Project A part II


   With neither Sammo Hung nor Yuen Biao returning for this sequel to the high-adventure of Project A, the result is a rather mixed bag. First off, Part II is much more story-centric. I found it easier to pay attention to the plot in this one than in the predecessor, probably because there was more to actually pay attention to? There's a wealth of sub-plots, and a lot of story, leaving the action and fight scenes to take a back seat. But, I don't think that was necessarily a bad thing. I found Project A part II to be genuinely engaging, even if it wasn't as explosive or action packed as it's predecessor.

Project A


   Project A is a big period piece adventure flick on the old coast of China. There's cops, naval officers, pirates and gangsters. In the middle of all of this is superman Jackie Chan. He carries the movie with a buzzing energy that only he could, making Project A a blast from start to finish- even if it is a bit... much. I haven't been so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of non-stop action in a movie, like this, ever. This was a first for me. Maybe I was simply tired? But, even the people I watched it with- all Chan-fans, agreed that this was excessively jam packed full of action. I didn't even know I could get worn out on fighting and action scenes before I saw this movie!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Friday the 13th (2009)


   Ready to run away from this movie screaming? All I need to do is say four words: produced... by... Michael... Bay! So, you'd think it'd be horrifying in all the wrong ways, right? Wrong! This is actually a damn fine Friday the 13th movie that isn't a remake at all so much as it is just a shot-in-the-arm for the franchise. One that sadly did little to jump start things again. Which is a same because this movie had all the right ingredients that fans want from these movies. It's a non-preachy, R rated, back to basics, no-CGI, you-have-sex-and-you-die, horror flick! Why did people bash this so much? It's exactly what they've been asking for. They fuckin' got it, and spat in it's face. Damn, man.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Doomsday


   There's some movies that you can't even describe without listing all the movies it's clearly inspired by. In this case, Doomsday is clearly The Road Warrior meets Escape from New York with a dash of 28 Days Later thrown in for good measure. But, for a movie nerd like me, I was noticing references and throwbacks to so many other movies. Director Neil Marshall keeps cranking out consistently entertaining movies, and Doomsday is no except. So what if it rips off a ton of other movies? It's still a blast. There's no need to start a debate about homage vs rip-off, because rip-offs used to be awesome and in my humble opinion, Doomsday is the last great rip-off.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Replacement Killers


   Few things bring me as much joy in life as a good damn action movie does. Bonus points if it has and/or opens on a club scene with a hip techno beat blasting. Movies like The Matrix, Blade, xXx, Collateral, John Wick and even The Terminator come to mind. Odds are, you've seen a hundred movies with shootouts in techno clubs. If you think that's a casual exaggeration, think again. I'm very sure the number is right around 100 or more. The Replacement Killers is no exception. It opens with Chow Yun Fat's character, hitman John Lee, slowly walking through the raving crowd of a techno club. Oh ho ho boy, this is already promising!

Monday, May 16, 2016

SSX 3


   I don't know why I'm reviewing a bunch of games from the latter years of my childhood, but I am. So deal with it. 90% of my personality is one un-ending nostalgia trip. You say "It's" I say "morphin' time!" You say "snowboarding"... I say SSX 3. That's just how these things go. I've been on a snowboard once in my life, and it was in my friend's backyard. We did nothing but fall over and sprain a couple ankles. If you asked me who my favorite snowboarder was, I couldn't tell you. I don't have one outside of this game. Me even coming across this game is a story unto itself, because it's still really not the kind of game I'd ever gravitate to on my own.