DVD Reviews 

1982 – Conan the Barbarian

by Alan Rapp on May 16, 2019

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Conan the Barbarian
  • IMDb: link

Conan the Barbarian reviewToday’s Throwback Thursday takes us back to harsh lands of Cimmeria, the days of high adventure, and a barbarian known as Conan. On or around this date 37 years ago Arnold Schwarzenegger hit the big screen in the first of several iconic roles which would transform the former body builder into a movie star. Based on the character and stories created by Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian offers an origin story for a barbarian thief raised in slavery and his quest to avenge the death of his parents by the wizard Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones).

More one-dimensional than his comic counterpart, this Conan lacks the wit found on the printed page as he stumbles through the various obstacles put in front of him. From his journey of slave, to gladiator, to wandering barbarian, Conan picks up companions in the beautiful Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), the wizard Akiro (Mako), and the archer Subotai (Gerry Lopez). The film is hardly the stuff of great cinema, and some of its elements and effects have aged better than others, but more than three decades later it still retains its charm (including Jones’ reptilian villain turn, some enjoyable action sequences, and the memorable score by Basil Poledouris).

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Bumblebee

by Alan Rapp on April 15, 2019

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Bumblebee
  • IMDb: link

Bumblebee movie reviewLook at that, a Transformers movie that doesn’t completely suck. While throwing caution to the wind and creating plenty of continuity errors with the current Transformers movie franchise, Bumblebee is a mix of old school Transformers and the suckage known as the Michael Bay films that forces a human story into the center of each film. Easily the best of the franchise, that’s still not saying all that much. Still, for what it is, Bumblebee provides some fun.

Opening on Cybertron, the story shoehorns in several fan-favorite cameos, while explaining Bumblebee‘s arrival on Earth and the loss of his voice. Taking place before the events of the first Bay Transformers movie, Bumblebee is centered around a tomboy named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) who discovers her clunker of a VW Bug is actually a robot from space. Sent to Earth to prepare it for the Autobots arrival (something he actually doesn’t do), Bumblebee is followed by Decepticons searching for Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and the rest of the Autobots. The film also throws in John Cena as a soldier in a secret government organization conned by the Decepticons into locating their prey.

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Aquaman

by Alan Rapp on April 9, 2019

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Aquaman
  • IMDb: link

Aquaman Blu-ray reviewJason Momoa stars as the title character in this origin tale about how the son of a human father (Temuera Morrison) and an Atlatean mother (Nicole Kidman) would grow up to become the hero needed to unite the two realms. While at first feigning no interest in Atlantis, Aquaman is convinced to help by Mera (Amber Heard) and the actions of his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) who is preparing for a war against the surface world.

The script by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall is burdened by an abundance of narrative that doesn’t fit all that neatly into a single film. Along with the origin and hero’s journey, the movie also features a love story, an adventure to the inner Earth, politics and war among the various Atlantean tribes, brotherly jealousy over the crown, and an odd sequence where the film becomes National Treasure for about 20 minutes. Oh, and there’s Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who is included for some reason.

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Mortal Engines

by Alan Rapp on April 2, 2019

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Mortal Engines
  • IMDb: link

Mortal Engines Blu-ray reviewBased on the sci-fi novel of the same name by Philip Reeve, Mortal Engines is yet another post-apocalyptic teen flick with class warfare themes. Years after war devastated the Earth, people now live in traveling cities which are often the prey for even larger traveling cities which consume materials to keep them moving. It’s in the largest of these where we meet museum curator Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) who saves the life of the city’s leader (Hugo Weaving) only to find himself expelled on the run with the would-be assassin (Hera Hilmar) while questioning everything he knows about the world.

The visual of the traveling predatory cities certainly works on film, but the story is often a mess spending far too long with Tom’s life in London and racing through Hester’s (Hilmar) backstory involving a cyborg killing machine (whose own existence is never adequately explained). There’s also the war between the traveling city and the lone surviving human colony which both Tom and Hester will ultimately become swept up in.

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London Fields

by Alan Rapp on March 20, 2019

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: London Fields
  • IMDb: link

London Fields DVD reviewLondon Fields is a flawed but ambitious film that struggles mightily with adapting the 1989 novel of the same name for the big screen. The film’s biggest strength is Amber Heard, cast in the role femme fatale Nicola Six who toys with men’s affections for her own selfish gratification and amusement. Despite the film’s many failings, Heard’s performance isn’t one of them nor is the cinematography of Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and Pacific Rim) who so lovingly frames the beautiful star on-screen. Semi-clairvoyant, Nicola knows the time and place of her death (but not the identity of her killer).

Our other main character is American novelist Samson Young (Billy Bob Thornton) in London attempting to find inspiration for one more novel. Immediately buying into her tale, Samson convinces Nicola to let the author tell her story. Like with Heard, Thornton is put to relatively good use (although the scripting of the noir voiceover fails him at times – but also provides one of the film’s more clever moments as the film pauses to allow Samson to rewrite a scene).

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