Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

With the aid of his companions, a man seeks to defeat his evil brother who murdered their father.

On its release Hawk the Slayer was every kids dream, the VHS complemented your He-Man collection. However, on revisiting it seems to have paved the way for slightly better films in the genre namely Krull.

Hawk features to of my two of my favourite actors, the late legend Jack Palance and Lucio Fulic collaborator Catriona MacColl in a pivotal bit part as Eliane. To Marcel’s credit actors synonymous with British film pop up Bernard Bresslaw, Annette Crosbie, Patrica Quinn Patrick Magee and the great Roy Kinnear to name a few. The casting is impressive even if the actors are somewhat under-utilised. William Morgan Sheppard as Ranulf is notable and upstages much of the acting.

In the vain of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Dollars, the team is made up of magic sword welder Hawk (John Terry), Peter O’Farrell’s tall dwarf, Bresslaw’s short giant and a hyperactive elf. They set off to confront hammy Voltan, Hawks older brother played by Palance, who is awkwardly partially hidden by a helmet.

Debatably the main issue Terry Marcel’s offering is the staging, it’s clunky. That said you could argue it’s more timely than The Sword and the Sourcer and certainly lengthy The Beastmaster. Musican Harry Robertson does an outlandish Jeff Wayne/John Barry. The effects are not too shoddy for the budget, the locations make up for what some of the sets lack.

It bests the endless recent DTV CGI low budget films of it’s genre. It’s sword sorcery fantasy comfort food and just the ingredients to make it a cult favourite, my 8 year old self would still enjoy. In retrospect though the poster art was better than the film. Watch for Palance and MacColl if nothing else.

A stolen child grows up with the ability to communicate telepathically with animals and begins to fulfil a prophesy after a village is destroyed by warriors under the control of an evil sorcerer.

Directed by Don Coscarelli of Phantasm (1979) fame this sword and sorcery film is very much of 1982. It’s not as well put together or has the production values as Conan the Barbarian (1982) or the comparable Krull (1983). That said, Coscarelli clearly enjoys putting plenty of flesh on display, namely Tanya Roberts (which was cut from the UK version).

It’s good too see some practical makeup effects, notably the witches, but Rip Torn’s nose is an unnecessary distraction along with the real life tiger dyed black. Some of the sets are impressive but the unevenness in quality and choppy editing hampers it throughout.

Even though going onto star in two sequels Marc Singer does the best with what he has as Dar but looks sorely miscast. Roberts is surprisingly good, John Amos is reliable as usual and Torn as Maax appears uncomfortably off.

Overall, it’s a fantasy comic book adventure come alive that isn’t as good as its poster art work.

Iron Warrior

Ator must battle with Phaedra, an evil sorceress and her unstoppable warrior, who has a secret connection to our heroes past.

Director Alfonso Brescia ambitious Iron Warrior is a low budget mix of Excalibur, Clash of the Titans, with a touch of Alejandro Jodorowsky wackiness and Duran Duran music video prowess to name a few. Opening with Carlo Maria Cordio’s endless credit title music (oddly reminiscent of Star Trek The Next Generation), we’re then sold the aesthetically pleasing locations of the Mediterranean’s Malta and Gozo. However, the sunny visuals take away from Iron Warrior some much needed atmosphere. Nevertheless, Brescia’s Italian production doesn’t shy away from brief nudity, some Lucio Fulci inspired make up and shock moments.

Brescia at best offers stylised 80’s bold geometric shape makeup, and fan blown hair with vibrant costumes, reds, greens and flowing material passing the camera. There’s a handful of beautiful women thrown including Iris Peynado, notable is the stunning Princess Jana, actress Sabina Gersak. Offering a poor mans Conan swordplay, projection There’s Superman (1978) Krypton-like prison rings trapping a witch, with Ator played by Miles O’Keeffe, a chiseled lean He-Man, along with nemesis Trogar (Franco Daddi) a Skeletor meets with Action Force’s Destro type sword wielding nemesis. . He employs slow-motion, sped up film, wide shots and old Bewitched/Randall and Hopkirk vanishing editing tricks. The avant-garde mix of student-like experimental film elements is endless.

If theatrical, over the top, choppy Italian sorcery fantasy salami is your thing, Iron Warrior is a must see.

In an alternate present day, humans, orcs, elves and fairies have been coexisting. Two police officers, one a human, the other an orc, embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it.

Director and producer David Ayer offers a part buddy film, reminiscent of the likes of Training Day, Alien Nation with a bit of Tolkien thrown in and you get what adds up to an enjoyable entertaining well paced movie. With wall to wall shoot outs, slick fights and magic wand sorcery Ayer handles the diverse mix of genre themes effortlessly as the unlikely paired partners battle rentlessly throughout an evening in L.A.

Actors Will Smith is on nonchalant form as Serpico-like Daryl Ward, unrecognisable Joel Edgerton with Orc makeup sporting a Nic Nolte-like raspy voice gives a standout performance as Nick Jakoby. Noomi Rapace is notable as a power hunger Elf and gives a physical intense turn as she goes about retrieving her wand to unleash a dark Lord. However, Lucy Fry steals the show as Tikka, a Rogue Elf who assists the unlike Orc and human police channeling Milla Jovovich’s Fifth Element Leeloo.

Writer Max Landis (son of John Landis) and Ayer throw in hints of comedy, a clever alternative Earth premise and interestingly set it during a night and day in L.A. Bright has plenty of ‘street’ atmosphere, as well as strong production values offering well executed special effects. To Ayers credit the mix of both reality and fantasy hold together seamlessly and you buy into the world and the Midnight Run, Judgement Night, Collateral, After Hours feel to name a few night set films from the get go.

Overall, a well balanced mix of genres in an alternative present day, with both underlying and on the nose social commentary that is almost too good for an action fantasy cop film. Recommend.

An everyday truck driver Jack Burton gets caught up in a centuries-old mystical battle in Chinatown and must rescue his pal’s fiancée.

Made the same year as a flurry of fantasy adventure films, including the The Golden Child, Flight of the Navigator, Howard the Duck and Labyrinth to name a few, Gary Goldman’s & David Z. Weinstein’s Big Trouble in Little China screenplay is rich and director John Carpenter unknowingly creates a rounded personification of an 80’s adventure film.

The leads are perfectly cast, a young Kim Cattrall’s delivers a defining comedy performance and Kurt Russell is perfect as the All-American beer drinking reluctant hero. A make-up enhanced James Hong is outstanding as mystical evil Lo Pan, the rest of the supporting cast are an array of familiar faces. 

Although the special effects are of their time, many of the makeup effects hold up well. Veteran cinematographer Dean Cundey’s shows all the gritty sweat of this pure piece of entertainment fun. There’s fantastically dressed sets, great costumes and neon lighting. Director Carpenter delivers outlandish set pieces, some great action scenes, magic and sword fights. It’s full of comedy moments, one-liners and dark, creepy supernatural Chinese spirits as Jack goes about rescuing the girl(s).

Big Trouble in Little China packs a lot punch for a film that didn’t do big box office bucks but it certainly found an audience on VHS. It’s a top fantasy adventure that’s production values add to Big Trouble’s charm, Carpenter’s quirky atmospheric touch ensured it could be revisited time and time again.

Six Companions – a dwarf, half-elf, warrior, mage, knight and kender reunite amid rumours of war and growing evil, horrors that will either destroy them or forge them into heroes of the world of Krynn.

Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, directed by Will Meugniot is a standard affair especially given the voice talent involved, the CGI animation hampers the traditionally drawn cells. Even the voice- acting talents of Kiefer Sutherland and Lucy Lawless can lift the mix of traditional 2D animation and computer-generated 3D elements

It’s a Dungeon & Dragons tale even with the wealth of Dragonlance’s source material that I know is out there from Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, George Strayton’s screenplay is quite skimming. At times it’s naturally reminiscent to Lord of the Rings with orcs, Elves, Dwarfs, dragon and Wizards. The story beats echo Conan the Destroyer and Krull, I must admit I’ve never read first novel for the campaign setting on which it is based, given it was made in 2008 it feels very cheap where as the ’80s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon still holds up and fares much better as a piece of entertainment.

As the Companions flee, struggle against enemy forces, escape, and encounter undead warriors despite Meugniot’s best efforts it feels quite flat which is a shame given some of the character designs are visually interesting. It has all the right fantasy elements however, the animation shortfalls takes you out of the moment dulling any danger and excitement.

Overall, it never reaches the heights or atmosphere of the comparable D&D series, Fire and Ice or Gauntlet the video game.

Azeroth stands on the brink of war, the leader of the humans and the leader of the orcs are then sent on a collision course that will decide the fate of their people.

There is a honesty and truthfulness that comes with a Duncan Jones film, from having a famous father (a true legend) Jones broke convention not becoming one of those superficial celebs making a living in the shadow of a parent. I know very little if any thing about Warcraft, I know it’s big and I know it’s a fantasy role playing game so I’m not going to pretend I know more than that.

Warcraft with all the whiz bang jiggery pokery, beneath the sweeping shots and special effects there is a heart felt tale about parenting and loss. What Jones’ offering has is that Moon, Source Code humanity which Jones effortlessly brings to the table, that roundness and grounded feel that he stamps on his films. The script has an honesty that it’s not just some money making studio movie but an indie-spirited film finely crafted on a large scale. You feel your mate made this great spectacle, there’s an underlying apprehensive innocence in contrast to a sense of wonder and adventure. Warcraft seemingly feels that he isn’t in it for the money, but for the story telling and artistic craft of it all.

Unusually the subtitle ‘The Beginning’ was absent on the title screen in the cinema version, it simply says ‘Warcraft’ possibly linked to the rating. While available for all to see with an adult, the battles are intense, stabbings etc. it not just the scary demon and skeletal faces that will scare the young kids but the emotional impact of orc Durotan (CGI capture Tony Kebbell) wife and child storyline. As Orc clan honour is tested, there are duelling wizards, a giant golem and griffin. Jones also briefly throws in a few elves, dwarfs and huge wolves for good measure. There’s betrayal, double-crossing and retribution, the powerful magical Orc, Gul’dan (the excellent Daniel Wu) literary sucks the life of humans akin to The Dark Crystal.

The casting is not mainstream, Ben Foster’s wizard Medivh avoids stereotype and is a young incarnation of a wizard, as is Llane (Dominic Cooper) a younger than expected King. Battle hard human Lothar Travis Fimmel (of Amazon’s Vikings) as well as some grand action scenes, emotional set ups (one echoing the Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan showdown) he also gets comedic moments, many alongside wizard/mage apprentice Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) who again is not what you’d expect for someone so powerful. This casting works in Warcraft’s favour and if you had a thing for blue women Smurfette, Neytiri and Mystique, Stark Trek olive and She-Hulk green is the new in colour with Garona Halforcen. Fittingly cast is memorable underrated Clancy Brown (of Highlander fame) as the principled conflicted Blackhand, Gul’dan’s right-hand orc.

The daytime colour is bright and vivid in contrast to the pin sharp night time and darker scenes, Warcraft has a unique look and feel. The execution is near on perfect in the confines of the budget and today’s capabilities with brutal sword play and battles. The director is wise to keep the focus on the interesting characters and themes of conflict, family and loyalty with Ramin Djawadi ominous score adding to the proceedings. Warriors, Kings, magicians and creatures, the human cast and the CGI performers melt together and you invest in the characters and their secret meetings and campsite confessions. The computer imagery, textured layers of animation and 3D modeling fuse with the mix of practical stunts and sets. Fimmel and Kebbell are notable but Paula Patton as hardened Garona steals the show as a go between peace keeper and will no doubt set geek hearts aflame. Writers Jones, Charles Leavitt and Chris Metzen juggle the many major characters successfully and the cast deliver the fantasy dialogue with ease.

Jones and crew give us the Matrix of fantasy, lots of things will be familiar not just reminiscent because of Lord of the Rings, Dungeon and Dragons, Fire and Ice, Planet of the Apes, John Carter to name a few. But because of an inherent subconscious of the genre that’s in the ether and part of our pop culture. But like the stylised Matrix did for sci-fi (as much as I hate to admit it) after the dust settled it stood on its own feet and was a milestone in film. As a 70’d kid Warcraft for me puts magic back in the mix instead of it languishing in low budget TV shows, a soulless blockbusters or sub-par cash-ins, here Jones takes it to a fitting level where it should be and cleverly sets up a follow up.

There’s unavoidable rooted fantasy tropes littered throughout and Jones injects a little nuance or twist wherever possible. As a sci-fi  fantasy, medieval-ish action saga Warcraft is highly recommend.

dark_crystalTo save Thra the last Gelflings, Jen and Kira, go on a quest to find a shard of the UrSkek Crystal which will fulfil a prophesy that links the fate of two races, the cruel Skeksis and the gentle Mystics.

Jim Henson with his talented artists and performers create an unparalleled, eerie, oppressive atmosphere. The Dark Crystal is a technological and artistic achievement and still holds up pretty well today. As well featuring real locations there’s great set and creature design, puppetry, miniatures, matte paintings, optical composite work and some blue screen. Trevor Jones’ score is powerful and Joseph O’Conor’s Orson Welles-like narration sets the scene. The voice tones of the leads are sombre, whispery and slow, adding to its hazy dreamlike quality in contrast to the harshness of Aughra and the various Skeksis characters.

As a fantasy film Henson creates a compelling world with its array of creatures. As the Gelflings go on their quest they encounter friendly monsters, Landstriders, Nebrie and (Fraggle Rock-esque) Podlings to name a few. But over all its dark in nature from ceremonial imagery, right down to the Garthim a crustacean-like creatures employed by the Skeksis to capture the Gelflings. Memorable is the exiled SkekSil the Chamberlain notably performed by Frank Oz and voiced by Barry Dennen.

Refreshingly pre-CGI, Dark Crystal is impressive, but the pace is questionable and there is little of the Henson-Oz trademark a sense of fun which he injected into his Muppet works and later Labyrinth. That’s not to take anything away from his 1982 offering. As story it can teach a lesson in morality to children but the visuals and tone appear for the most part geared for entertaining adults.

Overall, its infectious, mysterious, romantic Gothic atmosphere can leave you in a groggy dream-like state. Whether that’s a good thing or not is debatable, but not many fantasy films can boast such an affect or lasting visual impact.

A king’s land is under an impending threat from an ice lord and his army. After his daughter is kidnapped a warrior assists the princess to reunite her with her people.

Like Ralph Bakshis’ The Lord of the Rings (1978), Fire and Ice has plenty of atmosphere, it actually oozes it but it’s dispensable story leaves it lacklustre given its similarities to other tales. It also appears unusual that the sub character, namely Darkwolf is more fleshed out than the main lead Larn. That said, there’s some nice fantasy elements notably the sub-human ape-like beings, flying dragon hawk-like creatures and sorcerers to name a few.

Given the adult nature of the film it may have been rounded by more blood splatter and Cynthia Leake/ Maggie Roswell (voice) Teegra either being topless through-out or less scantly clad as she almost becomes a titillating distraction.

That said, there’s no shortage of ambiance with wonderful background paintings on display. The rotoscope technique and animation give it a magical unearthly feel. The Teegra flesh on display and a Conan-esque witch scene that makes it worth a viewing alone. Yes it’s flawed but it’s also visually masterfully crafted.

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After Merlin the magician brings up Arthur to be king, forces conspire to tear Camelot apart.

John Boorman’s retelling of the King Arthur tale is debatably the definitive version to date. It’s an advantageous production which benefits from a dreamlike quality with stylized lighting, effects and sweeping cinema photography. It’s violent, sexually overt, yet, intentional or not the blood is comic-like with bright reds and crimson. Based on Thomas Malory’s book with a handful of writers involved in the screenplay it commendably covers a lot of ground cramming in all the main segments you’d expect from the legend.

The performances are theatrical which makes the dialogue more palatable. Arthur Pendragon’s (Nigel Terry) journey from country bumpkin to King is a joy and the famous affair, love, loss and betrayal themes are handled terrifically. Nicholas Clay as Sir Lancelot is perfect and has a short character arch. The quotable lines come thick and fast, Nicol Williamson’s over the top quirky, witty Merlin is a delight to watch and a young Helen Mirren as Morgana lifts the ensemble. While Cherie Lunghi may not be everyone’s idea of the perfectly cast Guinevere there’s still a star studded cast which includes the likes of Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart to name a few.

Some of the effects may have dated but it oozes atmosphere and spirit benefiting from an on location feel, coupled with the lavish set design It is a visual treat, yes it’s exaggerated reality but that’s part of Excalibur’s allure. Recommended.

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