Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Movie Review: Masters of the Universe

Masters of the Universe a.k.a Masters of the Universe: The Motion Picture
Golan-Globus Productions, Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, Cannon Films, USA, 1987.

"Who you gonna call? He-Man!"

The eternal battle of Good vs Evil is culminating on planet Eternia. Evil Skeletor (Frank Langella) and Evil-Lyn (Meg Foster) have conquered the Castle Grayskull and captured Sorceress (Christina Pickles). Mighty hero He-Man (Dolph Lundgren) and his friends Man-at-Arms (Jon Cypher) and Teela (Chelsea Field) are on the run and trying to organize resistance. Inventor dwarf Gwildor (Billy Barty) has invented Cosmic Key that can teleport people. Escaping Skeletor the whole bunch teleports to Earth and meets a cow. The confusion is mutual. The group also loses the Cosmic Key and hunting for it constitutes most of the plot.
Dolph Lundgren
Frank Langella
Meg Foster
On Earth waitress Julie (Courteney Cox) feels guilty for her parent's death as they died on airplane crash when Julie didn't want to spend time with them. She plans to move away but then she would have to leave her boyfriend Kevin (Robert Duncan McNeill). Julie and Kevin find the Cosmic Key, and Kevin thinks that it is a new Japanese synthesizer. Skeletor sends Blade, Saurod, Beastman and Karg to capture He-Man. Gwildor, Blade and Saurod were totally new characters and got their own action figures, but strangely Karg didn't.
Jon Cypher and Chelsea Field
Man-at-Arms and Teela
Billy Barty
Courteney Cox
Julie and Kevin join He-Man's team when Skeletor's troops attack. The battle leaves behind a trail of material destruction including a gym class room and a music shop. Tough detective Lubic (James Tolkan, regular toughie in 1980s films) tries to figure out what is behind all the ruckus.
Karg, Saurod, Blade, Saurod and Beastman
James Tolkan
When I was a young boy Masters of the Universe toys were the hottest hot. The toy series had a cool animation series and mini-comics in the toy packages that motivated to learn reading English. The characters were muscular, there were monstrous enemies, mutants, cyborgs, tough and beautiful women and elements of swords and sorcery and scifi. Everything that a growing boy needs.
Christina Pickles
For the movie new characters were created and many of the old simply forgotten. Where is He-Man's pet tiger Battle Cat? And King Randor? Flying little wizard Orko was replaced by Gwildor for budgetary reasons. Also the transformation of Prince Adam into He-Man is omitted. Also Sorceress looks drastically different than in the cartoons. In cartoons and as a toy she wore a hawk costume (Ladyhawke?), now she looks more mature and  wears a crystal chandelier on her head. And Teela doesn't correspond to the image I had about her as she should look more like a Grecian warrioress instead of someone from Mad Max. Of the other characters Skeletor looks as he should, Evil-Lyn is a bit different but still cool and Beastman and Blade look as they should. The worst annoyance was to throw the heroes to contemporary Earth. Although He-Man and his pals are totally believable in a fantasy planet, here they look quite absurd, with He-Man running through suburbs wearing underpants and leather straps. He looks like having escaped from some gladiator-fetish club. I mean just look at this:
Stuff like this produces a lot of campy humour. Still the subplot of Julie feels sometimes too serious considering the source material. As Mattel wouldn't allow He-Man to kill humans, Skeletor's army consists of robots that look like Darth Vader. He-Man then trashes and shoots those robots in the best Cannon Films style.

Although the movie does not quite reach the awesomeness of the cartoon series, it is still quite fun. Dolph is a good choice as He-Man, Frang Langella is magnificent Skeletor and other actors are fine too. The 1980s fantasy adventure gains value from the nostalgic memories of the era.

There was supposed to be a sequel but as the film flopped, the script was rewritten as Van Damme's "Cyborg." By the beginning of the 1990s the muscular heroes were going out of fashion. The decline of the popularity made the toy makers trying to make "The New Adventures of He-Man" toys slimmer and although there were some cool characters (Optikk for example) it just wasn't the same. I didn't have any of the toys from the new series.

Rating: Good

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Meg Foster, Billy Barty, Courteney Cox, Robert Duncan McNeill, Jon Cypher, Chelsea Field, James Tolkan, Christina Pickles, Tony Carroll, Pons Maar, Anthony De Longis, Robert Towers, Barry Livingston, Jessica Nelson, Gwynne Gilford, Walter Scott, Walter Robles, Cindi Eyman, Peter Brooks, Richard Szponder, Mike Carlucci, Nicholas Grabowsky
Director: Gary Goddard

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Movie Review: PollyWorld

PollyWorld a.k.a Polly World: Her First Full-Length Movie a.k.a Polly Pocket: PollyWorld
Curious Pictures, Humoring The Fates, Mattel, Universal Animation Studios, USA, 2006.

Polly has a new theme park PollyWorld and she invites friends to participate in a charity contest Roll Like That. The show is hosted by every girls' favourite megastar Donovan Ware. Beth, her rival, challenges Polly's team. Beth is jealous as Polly is the most popular girl in the class.
Polly (middle) and her friends
Beth (middle) and her friends
I don't know much about Polly's background but her dad is loaded, she lives in a mansion and has a butler named Samuel. Samuel is also driving Polly's limo. Polly and her friends play in their band Polly and the Pockets.
The contest is challenging and Beth does mischiefs to win. Then comes the shock: Polly's single-parent dad John has a new girl friend. Lorelei seems to be nice but she is a scheming woman. Together with Beth she plans to send Polly away so she could get her hands into dad's millions. Polly has to make tough choices to ensure her dad's happiness.
John and Lorelei
The contestants
The Polly Pocket toys were originally pocket-sized play sets. The doll houses would fit into a cosmetic pocket box. Those that I remember seeing in the toy stores in the early 1990s looked like this:
When Mattel acquired the rights the doll designs were changed drastically. When this film was made they had evolved into a more Barbie-like dolls with teen looks:
Mattel must have annoyed a lot of old fans of the toys by removing the original key asset: miniature size. Although the dolls were still quite small, the new toy sets wouldn't fit into a pocket anymore. The ever changing character design must have been alienating for the new fans of the dolls also. The design changes made the toys more childlike in 2010 and that seems to have been the final nail in the coffin. New toys haven't been sold since 2015 so the toy line seems to quite dead at the moment. It is like the revamping of the Masters of the Universe toy line in 1989 that failed and killed the fan interest for the series but that is another story.

The movie is okay teen drama for girls and fans of the dolls, but for a random viewer the side characters' and most specially Polly's friends seem to lack personality. The butler is slightly more interesting case and he has a running joke about him being the mother-figure for Polly. The story has the usual elements of the genre, songs, some humour and friendship so it is nice entertainment for kids.

Rating: Average

Voice actors: Tegan Moss, Chiara Zanni, Nicole Bouma, Natalie Walters, Brittney Wilson, Tabitha St. Germain, Jocelyne Loewen, Nicole Oliver, Russell Robert, Kathleen Barr, Michael Donovan, Alessandro Juliani, Teryl Rothery, Andrew Francis, Matt Hill, Danny McKinnon, Terry Klassen, Cassidy Ladden
Director: Bill Moore

Friday, January 20, 2017

Movie Review: Clue

Clue a.k.a Cluedo a.k.a Clue: The Movie
Paramount Pictures, Guber-Peters Company, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Debra Hill Productions, USA, 1985.

Based on popular board game.

A group of people are invited incognito to dark mansion. Butler Wadsworth (Tim Curry) and busty maid Yvette (Colleen Camp) welcome the six visitors. The host of the evening is Mr. Boddy's (Lee Ving). The doors are locked and no one can get out. All the invitees have dirty secrets and Mr. Boddy is blackmailing them. Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd) is a sex maniac,  Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn) killed her husband and so on. Everyone is given a weapon. Then lights go out and Mr. Boddy is murdered until he dies from it. All have their motives but who did it?
Tim Curry
Lee Ving
Mr. Boddy
Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock, Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Mrs. White and Mr. Green
The visitors try to solve the murder and avoid being the next victim as bodies start to pile up. Seemingly random people visiting the house are not safe either. "I suggest we stack the bodies in the cellar, lock it, leave quietly one at a time and pretend none of this ever happened."
Michael McKean and Colleen Camp
Mr. Green and Yvette
Lesley Ann Warren and Christopher Lloyd
Was it Miss Scarlet or Professor Plum?
Eileen Brennan
Or maybe Mrs. Peacock?
Can there be a good movie based on a board game? "Clue" proves that it can be so. After a slowish start the murder mystery picks up the pace and turns into a hectic screwball dark comedy. It is kind of combination of Christie's "Ten Little Indians" and "Noises Off". Tim Curry's energetic butler is fantastic, and so is Lesley Ann Warren as cheeky Miss Scarlet. The story written by John Landis & Jonathan Lynn has quote-worthy dialogue and enjoyable twists. There are some jokes that do not work so well and sometimes it risks going a bit too macabre. The story is set in the 1950s referencing the events of the era so even J. Edgar Hoover has his part in solving the mystery. The gimmick of the movie in theaters were three randomly selected endings, which makes it impossible to deduce the culprit as there are several possibilities that all more or less make sense.

Rating:Very good

Starring: Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, Colleen Camp, Lee Ving, Bill Henderson, Jane Wiedlin, Jeffrey Kramer, Kellye Nakahara, Will Nye, Rick Goldman, Don Camp, Howard Hesseman
Director: Jonathan Lynn

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Movie Review: Action Man: X Missions

Action Man: X Missions a.k.a Action Man The Movie
Hasbro Entertainment, Reel FX Creative Studios, USA, UK, 2005.
Action Man: X Missions title

Dr. X is back and in better condition than he was in the end of the last film thanks to latest technology. Still he haven't made a new face for No Face (a running joke in these films). People and zoo animals are being kidnapped all over the world. Dr. X, No Face and Professor Gangrene are combining humans with animal DNA and creating Toxic Troopers. Action Force has to save the world again.
Action Man
Red Hawk and Flynt
Prof. Gangrene looks like Admiral Ackbar. 
International Scientific Defence Chief Sir Arthur Strong is kidnapped and Second in Command Mr W. doesn't believe Action Man when he says that Dr. X is still alive. Not before the robots knock knock knock on the heavy door.
Dr. X
Cuts, slices and dices.
Don't tase me, bro
Robots are no match for the heroes but Toxic Troopers are harder as they are mutated from innocent people so they can not be killed. Sir Arthur's agent daughter Rebel comes to support the heroes. Together they travel in exotic locations searching for secret bases and clues on how to change the Toxic Troopers back to normal.

Expectations were not high after the previous film, but X Missions gave some positive surprises. The production values are higher compared to the previous film with better looking animation and better music. Never mind the next picture.
Actually the animation level is mainly nice but some scenes look like they run out of money or time so there is some unevenness. The action scenes are better and there is more humour. Maybe the makers understood that Action Man as a hero is quite generic, so they made the villains interesting and fun. Dr. Gangrene is quite a character and No Face and Dr X pull their own crazy show.
Group hug!
It is more entertaining than the prequel with light-Bond style story. The story has been recycled from another Dale Carman animation "G.I. Joe: Valor vs. Venom" but why change a working script. The third movie of the Action Man trilogy was made but released only in Mexico so I don't have it.

Rating: Good

Voice actors: Oliver Milburn, Jonas Stuart, Brian Drummond, Steven Berkoff, Sam Vincent, Scott McNeil, Tabitha St. Germain, Gerard Plunkett, Ron Halder, Brian Dobson, Lee Tockar, Ashleigh Ball
Directors: Dale Carman, Keith Lango

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Movie Review: Action Man: Robot Atak

Action Man: Robot Atak a.k.a Action Man: Robot Attack
Hasbro, Arcana Digital, USA, 2004.

Action Man started his career as a British licensed version of G.I. Joe. As a kid I didn't play with Action Man toys. For me Masters of the Universe-series was the thing.

Super criminal No Face disguises himself as Action Man and kidnaps Professor Moran and Kongo the Gorilla. Also a moustached robot army is attacking. Action Man becomes fugitive and he suspects that Dr. X is behind the mischiefs. Dr. X bought the farm in some previous adventure, but No Face has turned him into a cyborg. A.M. and his friends Indian tracker Red Wolf and surfer dude Flynt have to break into their own base to get their equipment. Luckily Action Man is the toughest guy there is and the guards barely notice anything. A.M. should train his guards better.
Action Man and Red Wolf
No Face has kidnapped Professor Moran.
Then the team jumps around the world fighting evil robots and trying to ruin Dr. X's plot (as Action Force is the only special operations team in the world). In one absurd scene Action Man has to fight a strongman robot in a boxing ring while robot audience is cheering. Because every evil genius has to have a boxing ring in his lair.
Dr. X
I must break you
The Finnish dub was funny to listen to for the over dramatic voice acting.  Especially Red Wolf sounded very dead serious. Non-Finnish readers will not get this but Dr X's voice actor sounded like evil version of Finnish comedy character Jukka Emil Vanaja. 
Power hug!
The film was made for marketing the current line of A.M. toys and also a game for Nintendo Gameboy was made. Cheap looking action movie finds its audience from little boys whose mums will most likely consider it too violent and noisy. This is a stupid movie but luckily made tolerable by some unintentional comedy and amusing dialogue. The action scenes look quite awkward. The plot is generic and struggles to fill the 45 minutes. It had just enough story for an regular length Saturday morning cartoon episode and the detached segments are weakly tied together. For undemanding Action Man fans only.
Action Man
Rating: Bad

Voice actors: Finnish cast: Iku Viitanen, Markus Blom, Pauli Virta, Ossi Ahlapuro, Bruno Lähteenmäki, Arto Nieminen, Elise Langenoja. English cast: Steven Berkoff, Johnny Duakes, Pierre Maubouche, Eric Meyers, Oliver Milburn, Talia Shively, Jesse Spencer
Directors: Steven Burch, John Moffett, Chris Woods

Recommendations by Engageya