Saturday, February 28, 2015

Movie Review: Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons
Starring: Jeremy Irons, Bruce Payne, Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Robert Miano, Tomas Havrlik, Thora Birch, Edward Jewesbury, Zoe McLellan, Lee Arenberg, Kristen Wilson, Martin Astles, Matthew O'Toole, David O'Kelly, Richard O'Brien, Kia Jam, Nicolas Rochette, David Mandis, Robert Henny, Stanislav Ondricek, Roman Hemala, Tom Baker, Andrew Blau, Marta Urbanová, Jirí Machácek
Director: Courtney Solomon 
New Line Cinema, Behaviour Worldwide, MDP Worldwide, Silver Pictures, Station X Studios, Stillking Films, Sweetpea Entertainment, USA, Czech Republic, 2000.
Dungeons & Dragons title
First I must make a confession: I never played the original D&D pen & paper games. However I have played many of the computer game versions and read many D&D fantasy novels so I should know at least the basics of the D&D mechanics, monsters and universe. 
Jeremy Irons
Bad mage Profion
Bruce Payne
In the empire of Izmer an evil mage Profion (Jeremy Irons) and other mages oppress the common people. Empress Savina (Thora Birch) wants everyone to be equal. Profion has other plans so he tries to create a sceptre that controls the golden dragons but fails. Two thieves Ridley (Justin Whalin) and Snails (Marlon Wayans) plan to rob the Magic School. Profion urges the Mages Council to dethrone the Empress unless she gives her own dragon sceptre to Profion.
Justin Whalin and Marlon Wayans
Ridley and Snails
Thora Birch and Edward Jewesbury
Empress Savina and Vildan
Zoe McLellan
Apprentice mage Marina
The Empress has a trusted mage friend Vildan (Edward Jewesbury) who suggests searching for the rod of Savrille that can control red dragons. Profion sends blue-lipped Damodar (Bruce Payne) to get the map. Meanwhile apprentice mage Marina (Zoe McLellan) catches the thieves but has to run away with them when Damodar attacks the magical library and murders Vildan. Along comes also a dwarf named Elwood (Lee Arenberg). At some point Marina loses her glasses and opens her hair. This gains her more charisma points in the eyes of Ridley, but Marina seems to forget all her spells also. Later the heroes encounter also an elf law enforcer Norda (Kristen Wilson).
Lee Arenberg
Zoe McLellan
Marina loses her glasses and also her magical skills
Kristen Wilson
Ridley must get the Eye of the Dragon from thieves guild maze. Only the Eye opens a door to the tomb where the rod of Savrille is. Wily Thieves Guild leader Xilus (Richard O'Brien) says that no one has surived the maze alive. The maze is full of deadly traps, this part of the film actually is the first time that looks somehow related to D&D. The second time comes later as there is a short scene with Beholder, that flying one-eyed blob with eye stalks. The Beholder acts like a hired guard instead of being a cavern dwelling powerful magic-using monster. Killing those blobs in "Eye of the Beholder" games was always a dangerous task, so luckily the inexperienced characters of the film do not have to battle those.
Richard O'Brien
Xilus seems trustworthy guy. Not.
Maze is full of traps
Beholder unnaturally co-operating with humans
Later in the film there are some not bad sword fights, more dungeon crawling, mage fights and dragon fights, so the last half hour is a bit better than the first hour. Also Marina gets some of her spellcasting skills back. This is stupid script writing, in the beginning Marina casts a cool magic lasso spell and stuns half dozen enemies with a powerful spell, but then forgets her spellcasting abilities for the most part of the movie. The logic of the movie is long lost and the movie is almost spoofing itself, proper name would be "Role Playing Game Movie". 
Heroes stop to read the map
Dragon battles look cool
The movie throws the D&D-mythology out the window. In one bar the customers are human, some weird races and orcs. Orcs are common enemies in D&D games, so what are they doing in a human bar? Later there is a three-eyed purple guy (David O'Kelly), what is he? I think he was called hyphen in the movie, but quickly searching D&D races from the web gives no clue. The point is that it would be nice if the movie based on game with a rich lore could use some recognisable and iconic monsters and find them better use than just as semi-parodic backdrops. 
What is this purple guy?
The dragon effects look nice. The movie actually has some nice scenes (the maze, treasure lair and partially the end battle) but the negative sides win easily. Snails is annoyingly stupid character, who makes even Jar Jar Binks look like a genius. At one scene he steals a stuffed cat, what the heck is going on? I think Marlon Wayans has always been playing similar idiot characters. As far as I can recollect the only movie that I liked his performance was in "Requiem for a Dream." Also other actors have probably been given orders to overact as much as possible. Just look at Jeremy Irons:
Jeremy Irons
Bwahaha! I'm Bad!
The movie tag line "This is no game" should be taken as a warning: this is not the Dungeons & Dragons the gamers love. 

Rating: Bad

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Movie Review: Dragonlance - Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight 
Voice cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Lucy Lawless, Michael Rosenbaum, Fred Tatasciore, Michelle Trachtenberg, Rino Romano, Jason Marsden, Neil Ross, Marc Worden, Phil LaMarr, Dee Bradley Baker, Juliette Cohen, Nika Futterman, Caroline Gelabert, Ben McCain, Jentle Phoenix, Susan Silo, David Sobolov, Mari Weiss
Director: Will Meugniot 
Paramount Home Entertainment, Commotion Pictures, Toonz Animation India, Witox, USA, India, Germany, 2008.
The story is based on the novel by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.
The land of Krynn is in trouble because the Gods of Light have left. In the beginning evil Queen of Darkness Takhisis tried to conquer the world using dragons. Humans, elves and dwarfs prayed the Gods of Light and won the war with help from God Paladine. The arrogance of the people however angered the Gods and they left. The races began to fight each other. Now multi-headed dragon god Takhisis (Nika Futterman) is back and conquering the land with warlord Verminaard (David Sobolov) and dragon Onyx (Juliette Cohen). Also the goblins have taken over the land of Solace. 
Tanis and Flint
Heroes half-elf Tanis (Michael Rosenbaum) and dwarf Flint (Fred Tatasciore) are going to meet their friends, when group of goblins tries to stop them. With help from thief Tasslehoff (Jason Marsden) they manage to kill the goblins. At the inn thy meet their friends Sturm (Marc Worden), Caramon (Rino Romano) and Raistlin the Wizard (Kiefer Sutherland). A woman in the inn has a magical staff that the goblins want. The woman and man with the staff are Goldmoon (Lucy Lawless) and Riverwind (Phil LaMarr). The staff may lead the heroes to the Gods of Light, but they must also retrieve the discs of Mishakal. 
Friends in the inn
Goblin archers
During the trip they encounter more goblins, draconians (for some reason rendered with CGI), ghosts, flying horses and friendly but stupid gully dwarfs. And a hobgoblin riding a pony. There is also dragon's treasure lair à la Smaug. The ending is different from the book and leads to a cliffhanger. 
Gully dwarfs
Hobgoblin with a pony
The animation level is not very high with sub par CGI, it looks like 90s TV-animations or rather low-budget direct to video movies. The movie is not all hopeless though, the story is quite faithful to the book. There are lot of characters, and places. The movie has a rushed feeling, after all the movie tries to fit 400+ page novel into 90 minutes. Obviously a lot is omitted and the characters are simplified. 
Group portrait
Obviously evil Verminaard
Main hero Tanis is a skeptic who is not sure if to believe in the Gods or not. Sly but fragile wizard Raistlin, horse-allergic dwarf Flint and joking thief Tasslehoff are most distinctive of the other characters while the rest are regular sword-swinging heroes. There is also an absent-minded storyteller Fizban (Neil Ross). The writers of the books make cameo appearances throughout the film.
Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis cameo
My personal wish: next time when they try to make Dragonlance movies a Peter Jackson treatment would be nice or maybe an anime version.

Rating: Average (for Dragonlance / AD&D fan) or Bad (for anyone else)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Movie Review: Cockneys vs Zombies

Cockneys vs Zombies
Starring: Rasmus Hardiker, Harry Treadaway, Michelle Ryan, Jack Doolan, Georgia King, Ashley Thomas, Tony Gardner, Alan Ford, Honor Blackman, Tony Selby , Georgina Hale, Dudley Sutton, Richard Briers, Natalie Walter, Phil Cornwell, Josh Cole, Gary Beadle, Finlay Robertson, Elizabeth Webster, Joan Hodges, Michael Maris, David Ajao, Elena Argiros, Jonathan Stephenson, Dexter Fletcher, Dannielle Brent, George Brooks, Hayden Brandrith
Director: Matthias Hoene
Kintop, Limelight, Molinare, Tea Shop & Film Company, United Kingdom, 2012.
Two construction workers find an old grave in East London. They free an ancient zombie that bites them. Meanwhile two good-hearted but clumsy Cockney lads Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) and Andy (Harry Treadaway) work delivering food to an old people's home. Their grumpy grandad Ray (Alan Ford) also lives there. The retirement home is under the threat of being demolished.
Rasmus Hardiker and Harry Treadaway
Terry and Andy
Alan Ford
Grandad Ray
Michelle Ryan and Jack Doolan
Katy and Davey
Terry and Andy plan to rob a bank with Davey (Jack Doolan), Mental Mickey (Ashley Thomas) and cousin Katy (Michelle Ryan) to save the retirement home. The robbery goes better than expected. Almost. As the police arrive Mickey takes two hostages, Clive (Tony Gardner) and Emma (Georgia King). Meanwhile Ray and Peggy (Honor Blackman) must defend the retirement home from zombie attack. The bank robbers get away because the zombies attack the police.
Ashley Thomas
Mental Mickey
Zombies attack
Honor Blackman
After series of mishaps the survivors head to the retirement home to save Ray. They have a selection of guns for arming the old people who prove to be effective zombie-killers! Ray may be old but he is a tough Cockney!
Situation analysis
Georgia King, Tony Gardner Ashley Thomas
Emma, Clive and Mickey
Retirement home under siege
The movie is a working combination of crime comedy and zombie film. The dialogue is lively with Cockney slang and rhyming. Although the idea of zombie apocalypse is getting old, the movie has an original style and there is a lot of oh-so-British humour. Title scenes are stylishly animated with catchy songs fitting the theme of the movie perfectly. The zombie fights with the bank robbers are more gory by nature and the ones in retirement home are more comical. The zombies are old school slow, which gives the pensioners a better chance to fight back. There is also the slowest zombie chase ever.
Slowest zombie chase ever
The retirement home residents are a good cast of British veteran actors, with Alan Ford (known for "Snatch)", Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger"), Tony Selby (known for many British TV-series), Georgina Hale (Ken Russell's "Mahler" and many TV-series), Dudley Sutton (Tinker in "Lovejoy") and Richard Briers ("Much Ado About Nothing" and many TV-series). Also the younger cast is good with colourful characters. This is a very entertaining horror-comedy in the style of "Shaun of the Dead"and "Zombieland".
Dudley Sutton
Eric and his Uzi
Alan Ford
Ray is one tough Cockney

Rating: Very good

Monday, February 23, 2015

Movie Review: Phantoms

Starring: Peter O'Toole, Rose McGowan, Joanna Going, Liev Schreiber, Ben Affleck, Nicky Katt, Clifton Powell, Rick Otto, Valerie Chow, Adam Nelson, John Hammil, John Scott Clough, Michael DeLorenzo, William Hahn, Robert Himber, Bo Hopkins, Robert Kneppe, Paul Schmidt, Dean Hallo, Clive Rosengren, Edmund Wyson, Lucas Elliot Eberl, Rich Beall, Judith Drake, Yvette Nipar, Larry Odien 
Director: Joe Chappelle
Miramax, Dimension Films, Fuji Creative, NEO Motion Pictures, Raven House, USA, Japan, 1998.
Based on book Phantoms by Dean Koontz. 

Dr. Jennifer Pailey, M.D. (Joanna Going) takes her sister Lisa (Rose McGowan) to a small and peaceful mountain village Snowfield for a holiday. Jennifer works there as a doctor. Peaceful, yeah right. When they arrive they find their housekeeper dead. Most villagers are missing and other villagers are dead. Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Ben Affleck) appears with his deputies Stu (Liev Schreiber) and Steve (Nicky Katt). 
Rose McGowan and Joanna Going
Lisa and Jennifer Pailey
Ben Affleck
Sheriff Bryce Hammond
Supernatural monster with a sadistic sense of humour is eating the villagers. A strange message urges to contact Dr. Flyte. Bryce calls for more troops. Stu is going crazy and telephone makes scary noises. There is also a flying Facehugger.
Liev Schreiber
Deputy Stu
Nicky Katt
Deputy Steve
Flying facehugger-thing
Dr. Flyte (Peter O'Toole) writes articles for paranormal tabloid magazines. He also knows about "the Ancient Enemy." The FBI wants him to help with the mystery. He is sent to Snowfield with a Hazmat-team, more snack for the monster. Then the plot goes silly, as the monster wants to be a religious figure. Well, everyone has dreams.
Peter O'Toole
Dr. Flyte
Investigative journalism
Shotgun isn't effective
The beginning of the movie has a good ghost town atmosphere, bit like "X-Files" and "Silent Hill." This part has a lot of jump scares. Then it starts to loan heavily from "The Thing", "Alien", "The Blob" and various other scifi horror movies. It goes downhill from there. Positively the monster effects seem to be mostly handmade and not only CGI. The film has some tense moments so it is good to watch on Halloween watching, but could have been a lot better. Those who have read the book say that the book is much better. 
Undead Hazmat-team
Movie was made just before Ben Affleck became a big star. The female leads are okay, but not much character development is happening. Most memorable characters were Liev Schreiber as a creepy cop and Peter O'Toole who is either a hack scientist or a genius. 

Rating: Average

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