Saturday, July 30, 2016

Movie Review: Clash of the Empires (Age of the Hobbits)

Clash of the Empires a.k.a Age of the Hobbits a.k.a Lord of the Elves a.k.a The History of Mankind
The Asylum, USA, Cambodia, 2012. 
The bankruptcy of Finnish department store / online store Anttila caused that my order of movies including "The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition" vanished into limbo of undelivered packages. Luckily I didn't pay for it in advance. The package is now collecting dust in some warehouse:
But no worries, at least I can watch "Clash of the Empires" a.k.a "Age of the Hobbits"!

12,000 years ago in Indonesia a peaceful tribe of vegetarian little people (Tree People a.k.a Hobbits) is attacked by cannibal Rock Men (Java) and their flying lizards. Goben (Sun Korng) survives the attack and runs to warn the villagers. Only Giants (Humans) could help them but the hobbits do not want to ask them. The Rock Men capture the tribe and Goben's mother Suta (Tom Eurt) but she marks the path with her medicine stones. Goben, his father Tak Tek (Srogn) and little sister Omi (Khom Lyly) set out to save their tribe.
Sun Korng
Lizard Attack!
The Rock Men
The resourceful 'hobbits' meet tribe of humans and save master hunter Amthar (Christopher Judge) from being stomped to death by ancient rhinoceros. King Korm (Antonis Greco) does not want to help. Amthar and female warrior Laylan (Bai Ling) along with a couple of other warriors join the quest to free the little people.
Christopher Judge and Khom Lyly
Amthar and Omi
Bai Ling
Antonis Greco
King Korm
The original title ripped off "The Hobbit" and caused a lawsuit and the title had to be changed to "Clash of the Empires." Not that it had anything to do with Tolkien's book. It is a prehistoric adventure, not like the more serious prehistoric films "Clan of the Cave Bear" or "Quest for Fire " but more like poor man's "10,000 B.C." However there is some anthropological foundation to the premise as race of tiny humans Homo Floresiensis once lived in Indonesia.
Rock Man Queen
The Tree People
Even for Asylum standards this is a weird film. The movie was filmed in Cambodia with mainly local actors. Then it was dubbed in English causing an awkward déjà-vu of watching cheap Filipino midgetsploitation movies. The over-acting is hilarious, the worst offenders being the Human King (Antonis Greco) and Rock Man Queen (Rachana). Also Rock Men's crazed pet midget Koto (Kreb) induces Achondroplasiaphobia. The Rock Man actors are fun to watch, they are always grimacing with their strange teeth. Arrr! Lots of unintentional humour there is. Action lady Bai Ling has also cheesy dialogue and she has had better action scenes. Still she looked good as a warrioress. Christopher Judge keeps his cool being basically a prehistoric Teal'c. However the little people family was sympathetic and something to root for.

Still the adventure story is clearly made with serious intentions without ironic nods that some of the craziest Asylum monster films often have. Probably some of the vitriol towards the movie came from the mockbuster title controversy. The sceneries are good and the monster effects look above average. Especially the lizard models look nice. Again the cover image makes the action look more epic than it really is. Still the end battle seems to use more actors than Asylum usually can afford. Not a good movie in traditional sense but quite entertaining cheapo fantasy that somehow brings back memories from Italian sword and sorcery films of the 1980s. Maybe the Asylum should make more sword and sorcery type films?

Rating: Good (In cheapo film sense)

Starring: Bai Ling, Sun Korng, Srogn, Khom Lyly, Christopher Judge, Jerry Earr, Armani Nguon, Antonis Greco, Tom Eurt, Kreb, Savorne Horm, Neng Houy, Hak Hoy, Hun Soph, Ka, Brem Brey, Rachana, Sothorn Sith, Tol, Sopha Ok, Norm Phan, David, Channsadab Soth, Thavatt Sun, Vutha Yim, Suar Nou, Suon Nou, Ta Kley, Chean Prek, Am Sok, Salin Aon, Ra Bo, Pheab Chan, Rachel Anderson-Lebron, William Boodell, Courtney Branch, Brian Brinkman, Jon Kondelik, Matt Lasky, Joseph J. Lawson, Kelly P. Lawson, Kim Little, Kyle Morris, Jonathan Nation, Christopher Ortiz, Cody Peck, Sarah Restrepo
Director: Joseph J. Lawson

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Movie Review: Spectre

Spectre a.k.a James Bond: Spectre a.k.a 007 Spectre a.k.a Bond 24
B24, Columbia Pictures, Danjaq, Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sony UK, USA, 2015.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes to Mexico with his own mission to find out the answers that were left open in the previous films. New M (Ralph Fiennes) is not happy and grounds him from the operations. The security agencies are merging and C (Andrew Scott) wants to end the 00 program. Secret agents are so old school, drones and mass surveillance are the hottest hot. James asks Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to help him. 
Daniel Craig
James Bond is back
Ralph Fiennes
Bond's investigations lead him to tracks of criminal organization Spectre and its ruthless leader (Christoph Waltz). Brutish assassin Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) is always one step behind Bond. The past haunts Bond. Along comes psychiatrist Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) who may understand him better than any other woman before.
Dave Bautista
Mr. Hinx
Léa Seydoux
Madeleine Swann
Christoph Waltz
Mysterious Spectre leader
Daniel Craig's latest Bond completes the Spectre cycle that has been foreshadowed in the previous movies. It is hard to find many reasons why it would be any worse than the previous Craig-Bonds. Still the ulterior motives of the Big Bad felt a bit forced. Dave Bautista's laconic henchman has brutal energy and offers a good challenge to Bond. The story is a tad lighter than in the previous Skyfall and Roger Moore style humour returns in some chase scenes. Like always Bond travels around the world searching for clues and the sceneries are nice. Of the Bond girls Monica Bellucciand Léa Seydoux the latter becomes an important for defining the modern Bond character. It will be interesting to see how the saga continues with or without Craig.

Rating: Very good 

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Alessandro Cremona, Stephanie Sigman, Tenoch Huerta, Adriana Paz, Domenico Fortunato, Marco Zingaro, Stefano Elfi DiClaudia, Ian Bonar, Tam Williams, Richard Banham, Pip Carter, Simon Lenagan, Alessandro Bressanello, Marc Zinga, Brigitte Millar, Adel Bencherif, Gediminas Adomaitis, Peppe Lanzetta, Francesco Arca, Matteo Taranto, Emilio Aniba, Benito Sagredo, Dai Tabuchi, George Lasha, Sargon Yelda, Andy Cheung, Erick Hayden, Oleg Mirochnikov, Antonio Salines, Miloud Mourad Benamara, Gido Schimanski, Nigel Barber, Patrice Naiambana, Stephane Cornicard, Gary Fannin, Sadao Ueda, Phillip Law, Wai Wong, Joseph Balderrama, Eiji Mihara, Junichi Kajioka, Victor Schefé, Harald Windisch, Tristan Matthiae, Detlef Bothe, Bodo Friesecke, Wilhelm Iben, Noemi Krausz, Noah Saavedra, Francis Attakpah, Michael Glantschnig, Marlon Boess, Marie Fee Wohlmuth, Lili Epply, Konstantin Gerlach, Lara Parmiani, Umit Ulgen, Amra Mallassi, Ziad Abaza, Walid Mumuni, Derek Horsham, Nari Blair-Mangat, Michael White, Adam McGrady, Nader Dernaika, Pezh Maan 
Director: Sam Mendes

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Movie Review: The Peanuts Movie

The Peanuts Movie
Twentieth Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios, Feigco Entertainment, USA, 2015.
It is winter and the Peanuts go skating. Except for Charlie Brown who wants to fly his kite. It doesn't end well. The Little Red-Haired Girl moves into the neighbourhood. The main story is about Charlie Brown's clumsy attempts to impress her. Charlie tries to attend a talent contest, Charlie learns to dance, Charlie writes a book essay. But everything he tries goes wrong. Another storyline has Snoopy finding a typewriter and starting his writer's career. He also imagines being a WWI fighter ace who battles against Red Baron. 
Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown wants to be somebody
The gang is all here
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
If you have seen previous Peanuts cartoons it goes with a similar formula: there is a loose story connecting the episodic gags. Although 3D-animation is used the characters have elements (eyes and mouths) that imitate the hand drawn style of Schultz. and look like enhanced comic characters. At least some of the jokes are from the original comics. Much of the original animations' spirit is preserved. The music is still jazzy but some scenes use modern touches. The adults speak with the classic wah wah sound. Little Red-Haired Girl who was never shown in the comics is now seen.

The classic Charles M. Schulz comic was often quite bleak with neurotic characters constantly failing to achieve their dreams. Again Charlie rises from zero to hero and then back to zero. The movie has somewhat more happier ending, making it family friendly. Everyone likes Charlie although he is clumsy. Luckily the world of the Peanuts is kept faithful to the comic without introducing ill-fitting modern elements. It was a nice nostalgia trip, with all the elements you would expect from a Peanuts animation.

Rating: Very good

Voice actors: Troy 'Trombone Shorty' Andrews, Rebecca Bloom, Anastasia Bredikhina, Francesca Capaldi, Kristin Chenoweth, Alexander Garfin, Noah Johnston, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Micah Revelli, Noah Schnapp, Venus Omega Schultheis, Mariel Sheets, Madisyn Shipman, A.J. Tecce, Marleik Mar Mar Walker, William Wunsch, Christopher Campbell, Holly Dorff, Kelly Michele Mills, Al Nelson, Tessa Netting, Randy Thom, Randy Trager, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Gia Bravos, Ileanna Bravos, Nikolas Bravos, Clayton Drier, Kori Elmore, Adam Joshua Jastrow, Frances Bella Kayser, Theodore F. Kayser, Ava Kramer, Sam Lavagnino, Ava Leslie, Jaiden A.M. Mathews, Terence Matthews II, Dylan Naber, Marley Pearson, Nigel Pope, Aramé Scott, Eden Vietro, Nicole Wedel, Allen Zyler 
Director: Steve Martino

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Movie Review: Cutaway

Artisan Entertainment, Cutting Edge Entertainment, Golden ParaShoot Entertainment, Liaison Entertainment, USA, 2000. 
Cutaway title
Lieutenant Brian Margate (Ron Silver) authorizes perfectionist Customs Agent Victor Cooper (Stephen Baldwin) back to active duty [note: the DVD cover claims his name to be Victor Caruso, wroooong!]. Then they raid a shrimp shipment. Vic figures it out that drug smugglers use skydivers to avoid the law's long arm.  
Stephen Baldwin
Victor Cooper
Ron Silver
Brian Margate
Vic meets cute skydiving instructor Star (Maxine Bahns). She works in a skydiving team with team's leader Red Line (Tom Berenger) and hothead Turbo (Dennis Rodman). The team seems to get money from some suspicious source. To find out more about the smugglers Vic gets a crash course on parachuting from Sergeant Delmira (Casper Van Dien). 
Maxine Bahns
Tom Berenger
Red Line
Dennis Rodman
Soon Vic is a skydiving virtuoso and gains the respect of the skydivers. An important contest is coming and the team must train hard. Turbo however suspects that Vic is more than just a natural talent. 
Casper Van Dien
Considering that I bought this for 50 cents and the DVD cover was generic at best this was a positive surprise. The director Guy Manos is better known for his work as aerial stunts coordinator. Also in this film the most impressive scenes are the parachuting and base jumping scenes. It seems that at least Berenger and Baldwin did their own stunts. The plot is quite tongue-in-cheek "Point Break" variation and surprisingly fun. The cast has a good number of B-movie stars, only Baldwin's acting seems weird at times, almost "Nicolas Cage" weird. Adam Wylie, Zach from "Picket Fences" appears as Cal, one of the skydivers.
Adam Wylie
Rating: Good

Starring: Tom Berenger, Stephen Baldwin, Dennis Rodman, Maxine Bahns, Ron Silver, Roy Ageloff, Marcos A. Ferraez, Adam Wylie, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Phillip Glasser, Casper Van Dien, Cat Stone, Allison McKay, William Booth, Rena McPherron, Sam Blount Jr., Danielle Waxman, Ed Berliner, Tony Griffin, Sam Blount, Craig Fronk, Jefferey Jones, Troy Manos, Rex Manos, Robert Small, Bennett Liss, Trish Dempsey, Tiffinni Saint Ranae
Director: Guy Manos

Friday, July 22, 2016

Movie Review: Blood Brothers (Tian tang kou)

Blood Brothers (Tian tang kou) 
CMC Entertainment, Sil-Metropole Organisation, Lion Rock Productions, China Film Co-Production Corporation, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, 2007.
Blood Brothers (Tian tang kou) title
In 1930s China Ah Fung (Daniel Wu) and his friends Kang (Ye Liu) and Kang's little brother Hu (Tony Yo-ning Yang) decide to go to Shanghai after better life. Fung is naive, Kang is tough and overly ambitious and Hu has a soft-heart and wants to go home. 
Daniel Wu and Xiaolu Li
Ah Fung and Su Zhen
Ye Liu, Tony Yo-ning Yang amd Daniel Wu
Kang, Hu and Fung
In Shanghai the life is not rosy and they end up in low paid jobs. One night Fung saves the life of hitman Mark (Chen Chang) who tried to assassinate his boss Hong but failed and remained incognito. Fung's romance with village girl Su Zhen (Xiaolu Li) goes to back seat when he meets a nightclub singer Lulu (Qi Shu). Gowever Lulu wants to be a famous actor and there she needs Triad-boss Hong's (Honglei Sun) support. Also Lulu and Mark have a secret affair. The boys get involved in Hong's gun smuggling operation. 
Qi Shu
Honglei Sun
Chen Chang
Mob scheming and betrayals follow. The more the boys sink into the mob world the more strained their brothership becomes. Their loyalties are divided with tragic consequences. Eventually it is a time for vengeance!
Jie Gao
Rival mob boss Chen (Jie Gao)
The story is kind of remake of John Woo's "Bullet in the Head" minus the war scenes. It is not bad but pales in comparison to the original brutally emotional story. The costumes and sets look expensive. However the script feels like a collection of weirdly detached scenes as the plot seems to drag while the plot driving scenes seem to jump ahead without much explanation. The boys rise in the mob ranks in no time, things happen making the otherwise simple plot hard difficult to follow. Also the atempt to sentimentality does not work well as the characters are left very shallow. The action scenes are okay for a gangster film but lack the raw energy of Woo's original. Also without the political allegories of the original, it feels disappointingly bland and middle-of-the-road gangster drama. It is a pity as the cast, and production values are great.

Produced by Terence Chang and John Woo.

Rating: Average 

Starring: Daniel Wu, Ye Liu, Qi Shu, Tony Yo-ning Yang, Xiaolu Li (as Lulu Li), Honglei Sun, Chen Chang, Jun Zhao, Dian Lun Zhang, Jie Gao, Yong Xin Gui, Li Qiu Zhang, Ren Yuen Wu, Xiao Hu Ding, Xiang Hu, Zheng Zheng, Yi Heng Shao, Zhen Ying Yao, Young Fu Fan, Zhiyong Zhang, Jing Sun, Jing Ni Luo, Yin Wen Pu, Zhao Li, Wen Jia Ji, Min Gui, Duoduo Qian, Lin Ma, Yi-Ching Lu, Jiaolong Sun, Hai Ruo Wu, Chen Yang, Yu Hua Wang, Jian Hua Song, Renee Yuan (as Xin-yu Yuan)
Director: Alexi Tan

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Movie Review: Gargoyle's Revenge

Gargoyle's Revenge a.k.a Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness a.k.a Gargoyle a.k.a Wings of Darkness a.k.a Gargoyles
Avrio Filmworks, Cinetel Films, Lions Gate Entertainment, Lions Gate Films, USA, Romania, 2004. 
Gargoyle's Revenge title
The third and final (for now) glimpse to the immense filmography of Jim Wynorski is not only an action thriller but good old monster horror.  Well,  'good' can be disputed. 

In 1532 Romania the villagers and a priest capture a terrible flying beast under a rock. In 2004 CIA agents Ty 'Griff' Griffin (Michael Paré) and Jennifer Wells (Sandra Hess) are rescuing kidnapped ambassador's son. The gargoyle abducts one of the kidnappers. We just went into the twilight Zone!
Michael Paré
Ty 'Griff' Griffin
Sandra Hess
Jennifer Wells
Meanwhile Dr. Christina Durant (Kate Orsini) is researching old murals. Fathers Soren (Fintan McKeown) and Bodesti (Petri Roega) arrive to discuss some church politics. Christina's assistants Richard (Jason Rohrer) and Gregor (Mihai Bisericanu) go to Castle Orlock(!) Unfortunately for them the gargoyle's nest happens to be there. The CIA agents have to search for them. Meanwhile the gargoyle causes ruckus in various tourist attractions. The police suspects Lex the Butcher (Tim Abell) who is a nightclub owner and leader of a vampire fan club.But Lex also knows more about the monster than he would like to.
Jason Rohrer and Kate Orsini
Richard and Christina
Fintan McKeown
Father Soren
Tim Abell and Jim Wynorski
Lex with Jim Wynorski in cameo role
Cheap, dull and uninspired flick that is neither scary or funny enough. It uses the formula of Generic Monster MovieTM. As the plot involves romantic tension between Ty and Christina it is hard to figure out what Jennifer is doing in the story. The Romanian locations are nice but the cinematography fails to make good use of it. The CGI-monsters could be worse but they're  not something to applaud for. Kudos for some pretty Romanian extras though.
Daniela Nane as Peasant Girl
Rating: Bad

Starring: Michael Paré, Sandra Hess, Fintan McKeown, Kate Orsini, Tim Abell, William Langlois, Petri Roega, Rene Rivera, Arthur Roberts, Jason Rohrer, Mihai Bisericanu, Bogdan Uritescu, Claudiu Trandafir, Cristi Groza, Lewis Cojocar, Jim Wynorski, Claudiu Istodor, Nataliya Zamilatska, Annie Cerillo, Daniela Nane, Roxana Baches, Alina Teodorescu, Alexandra Serb, Dan Fintescu, Alexandru Nicolae, Robert Barladeanu, Danut Masala, Stefan Ionita, Borcea Marian 
Director: Jim Wynorski (as Jay Andrews)

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