Released: 2014

Directed by: Brett Ratner


Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: Hercules

Rufus Sewell: Autolycus

Ian McShane: Amphiaraus

John Hurt: Lord Cotys

In Greek mythology there a number of heroes whose stories have been told in various ways throughout the centuries.  But in the past 60 years, some of them have been made into movies.  Perseus, a son of Zeus who slayed Medusa, was made popular by Clash of the Titans.  Jason, who led the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece was played by Todd Armstrong in the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts.  Armand Assante and Sean Bean both led the Greek armies against Troy as Odysseus in the films The Odyssey and Troy, respectively.  Only one movie stood out that featured Theseus: Immortals, starring Henry Cavill.  Achilles was played by Brad Pitt in Troy.  But the one Greek hero that has received the most attention, is Hercules.  Initially played by Steve Reeves in 1958, the character has been played by MANY throughout the years.  Some of the actors that have played the character have been: Alan Steele, Lou Ferrigno Kevin Sorbo in the 90’s television series, Tate Donovan in the Disney animated picture Hercules, and most recently: Kellan Lutz in The Legend of Hercules and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Hercules.

In Brett Ratner’s Hercules, the film opens as Hercules'(Dwayne Johnson) nephew, Iolaus(Reece Ritchie) is telling the tale of Hercule’s 12 Labors.  Some of which included slaying the Hydra, the Nemean Lion, and Erymanthian Boar.  The film then shows Iolaus being threatened by pirates who don’t believe the stories that he tells.  Enter Hercules, who carries a massive club, and his mercenary team who lay waste to the pirates.  His band of mercs includes knife-thrower Autolycus(Rufus Sewell), seer Amphiaraus(Ian McShane), the animalistic Tydeus(Aksel Hennie), and the Amazon warrior Atalanta(Ingrid Berdal).  After eliminating the pirates, they are approached by Ergenia(Rebecca Ferguson), the daughter of Lord Cotys(John Hurt).  She tells them that Thrace is being threatened by a ruthless army being led by a mysterious man named Rhesus(Tobias Santelmann).  Accepting her offer, they go to Thrace to find that half of Cotys’ army has been killed by Rhesus.  There are a couple of twists and turns throughout the film that may come across as predictable, but I’m not going to mention them.

There were two movies based on Hercules that were released this year.  The first was The Legend of Hercules, and this one.  I haven’t seen The Legend of Hercules yet.  It’s on my to-do list.  Director Brett Ratner takes an unexpected direcction with the character.  Instead of having it be a full on fantasy movie, Ratner chose to take a more realistic approach.  In the film, the 12 Labors actually happened, but the actual details of those events are more…..exaggerated to scare his enemies.  So, certain aspects of those stories are tall tales.  See, the film toys around with the idea of whether or not Hercules is the son of Zeus.  He’s certainly one of the strongest men in all of Greece, but is he the son of a god?  The film is leaning towards no, but never actually answers the question.  I find that to be a very refreshing approach to someone who everybody thinks is a demigod.  They picked the right guy to play Hercules, though: Dwayne Johnson.  The man has the charisma and more importantly, the build to play the character.  Johnson is big, and he’s intimidating.  I was very curious to see how Johnson would play Hercules and I have to admit, he does a fantastic job.  The supporting cast isn’t too bad either.  Rufus Sewell plays the wise-cracking Autolycus.  Rufus is one of those actors whose eyes are soul-piercing, and he really comes across as bad-ass.  Ian McShane is amusing as the seer.  Also a smart-ass, McShane gives the character a very unique personality of someone whose clearly not afraid, but expecting to die.  He’s absolutely okay with it.  Ingrid Berdal is the only woman of the group, Atalanta.  She’s fierce, beautiful and fearless.  Every ragtag group has to have some kind of psycho, and Aksel Hennie fits the role perfectly as Tydeus.  He’s clearly a loyal hound, but when he’s unleashed on his foes, he goes bat-shit crazy with two axes.  It’s a fun group to watch.

This is an action movie, so there has to be action.  The stuff in this movie is actually pretty damn big.  We have two major epic battle sequences featuring hundreds of warriors.  The first is the battle with Bessi warriors and the second is with Rhesus’ army.  These are brutal and bloody affairs.  Dwayne Johnson goes to town on his enemies with his club and it hits hard as you would expect someone of his size to do.  There’s arrows being shot, people getting sliced and diced with swords and axes, and people getting run over by some wildly designed chariots.  My main issue with some of these sequences is that some of the editing is a little too quick.  You can see what’s going on, but the editing reduces the impact a little bit.  Some of the visual effects seem a bit chintzy, especially towards the end of the film.

I don’t think a lot of people are going to appreciate the fact that Brett Ratner chose to make Hercules more man than god, but I think that actually helps the character’s credibility in this film.  I mean, yeah, I would’ve loved to really see him take on the gods of Olympus, but there are already movies that do that.  Overall, I think Hercules is a stronger effort than most people give it credit for.  Is it perfect?  No.  No movie is.  Some of the chinks in the film’s armor are pretty obvious, but Dwayne Johnson’s presence and the characters that make up his ragtag team of misfits make up for it.  It’s certainly not the definitive movie on Hercules, but then again, I haven’t seen one that is yet.  Some people prefer the Disney flick, others prefer the original Steve Reeves pictures.  I think this one’s a lot of fun and it has a lot going for it.  My final verdict is an 8/10.  Do yourself a favor and at least rent it.  It’s worth that much at least.


Released: July 2013

Directed by: Joon-Ho Bong

Movie Trailer


Chris Evans: Curtis

One of science fictions most popular sub-genres is post-apocalypse.  What is that, you ask?  Post-apocalyptic movies take place in world that has been ruined by any number of events: Natural disasters, nuclear war, lack of natural resources, alien invasions or supernatural events.  Some of the most popular films including Mad Max take place in a world where humanity caused the end of the world.  As a result, the remnants of mankind are left wandering the world scavenging for whatever resources remain.  While most films take place in a desolate and desert-like world, few have the audacity to use an ice age as the backdrop of a world-shattering event.

In the year 2031, the world has been devastated by the onset of a new Ice Age as a result of humanity’s attempt to turn back global warming.  Using a special chemical, they covered the globe with this chemical in an attempt to bring the planet’s temperature back to more manageable levels.  Unfortunately, this attempt left the world in a frozen state, wiping out all forms of life.  In an attempt to salvage what’s left of humanity, a special train was constructed.  Humanity now survives on the move on a train that travels the world on a single track.  The sections of the train are divided: The elite upper class are housed towards the front of the train, the working middle-class is situated in the middle, and the poor and destitute are forced to huddle in the tail-end of the train.  A revolt has broken out in the tail-end of the train with a man named Curtis(Chris Evans)in the lead.  Followed by Edgar(Jamie Bell) and Tanya(Octavia Spencer), they attempt to take over the train after following 18 years of oppression.

The post-apocalyptic genre doesn’t really leave a lot of room for optimism.  It features humanity on the brink of extinction hoping for some kind of miracle that may never come.  While most films in the genre take place out in the wastelands, Snowpiercer takes a risk by placing the majority of the picture inside a 3-mile long steel tube, essentially.  The rear of the train is claustrophobic because we have a lot of people that are wall-to-wall inside an iron box and are forced to eat protein bars while the rest of the train gets better treatment.  There is a level of social commentary about how the elite treat the downtrodden and the destitute.  It’s done in a way that’s not heavy-handed, but on the same token it shows how cruel the elite can be.  You learn later in the movie that during the first few months on the train, the people at the rear-end of the train have had to do some…horrific things in order to survive.  The story and setting in the film are pretty unique.  The train is divided into visually unique sections.  The further in the train you go, the cleaner and more spectacular it gets.  Through the windows, you get to see what’s left of the outside world.

Chris Evans has come a long way from his stint in the Fantastic Four comic book movies.  While he was one of the sole highlights of those films, they were less than……good.  His first real breakthrough was the science fiction film: Sunshine.  That is a fantastic film in its own right, but I’ll review that one at a later date.  Evans didn’t really make waves until he was cast as Captain Steven Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger.  His performance in that film allowed him to take more risks with other kinds of roles.  Snowpiercer really allows him a greater range to express himself as one of his characters.  Curtis is the leader of a rebellion intent on liberating the rest of the train from the upper-class citizens.  During one of the scenes he talks about his experiences during the first few months on the train and you can see the pain and the disgust in his face.  I’m not entirely sure that anyone else could have pulled that off the way he did.  Evans is a fantastic actor.  Legendary actor John Hurt plays Curtis’s mentor.  John Hurt is well….John Hurt.  There’s a reason he is an amazing actor, and not just for his role as Kane in Alien.  He’s a very elegant and well-spoken actor that really shines through with whatever he does.  Tilda Swinton chews the scenery as Mason, the minister of the train.  Swinton’s great at playing hammy villains and Mason is no exception.  Ed Harris plays Wilford, the man who created the train and claims to have saved humanity through some very questionable means.  Harris is one of the most incredible actors that I have ever seen.  His filmography is extremely impressive.  From The Abyss to The Rock and beyond, Ed Harris is very dedicated to his craft and it shows, because he gives his all during his performances.  Whether it’s a villain or a good guy, you get the impression that whatever character Harris is playing, he makes the character as believable as possible.

The action in the film is extraordinarily intense because it’s so close-quarters.  There’s not really a whole lot of room for flashy fighting, so it’s very direct with blunt objects and axes.  It gets pretty brutal.  Once everything hits the fan, it doesn’t really slow down a whole lot except to show off each section of the train.  There are a few interesting twists and turns in this film which I won’t mention, but let’s just say it all comes together very well.  The direction by South Korean director Joon-Ho Bong is extraordinary.  While a lot of the action is punctuated by slow motion, he still manages to get the performances of his actors to come through the chaos.

Visual effects-wise, we do get to see the train from the outside periodically, but it’s mostly CG.  It’s surprisingly well-done for a low-budget thriller.  Seeing the train moving at high speeds crashing through obstacles is something to see and it really adds to the precariousness of the people’s situation.  This is a very solid and exciting science fiction thriller that manages to tell a compelling story while shining a light on the differences between social classes in a confined space and how we react to those differences.  Snowpiercer didn’t get as much attention as it deserved, I think.  I think people are rightfully wary of the Weinstein Bros cutting up another movie, which apparently they did.  They’re notorious for doing for a lot of movies, and in certain cases, it actually ruins the movie.  Snowpiercer, despite some cuts, still manages to be one of the most underrated and exciting movies released last year.  I seriously recommend checking this one out.  It’s awesome.  I’m giving it a solid 9/10.  Snowpiercer is rated R for violence, language and drug use.  Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Movie Trailer

Released: 1968

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Run Time: 160 minutes

Rated: G

Keir Dullea: Dr. David Bowman
Gary Lockwood: Dr. Frank Poole
William Sylvester: Dr. Heywood Floyd

I feel that since this is my first real post for this new website of mine, I chose a movie that would help launch this website in earnest.  So, my first review will be of the Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Hailed as a masterpiece of science fiction, 2001 was based on the novel of the same name by Arthur C. Clarke.  Released in 1968, 2001 was met with very polarized reactions.  It was a movie that people either loved or absolutely hated.  On one side, people praised the film for its use of music, sound effects and visuals to tell the story instead of having a whole lot of dialogue.  The detractors claim that the film is overly long, dull and out of control.  Yet, the film managed to win one Academy Award for Best Special Effects and nominated for three others: Best Director, Best Art Direction, and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.

I’m unsure of how to proceed with the plot, as the film is actually divided into 4 separate acts.  The first act sees a group of apes surrounding a watering hole when a mysterious black object appears.  Afterwards, the apes begin to learn how to use bones as weapons and tools.  The second act follows Dr. Heywood Floyd(William Sylvester) on his way to the moon because of a discovery that was made of an unidentified object.  Act 3 takes us on a journey to Jupiter with a group of scientists lead by Dr. Dave Bowman(Keir Dullea), Dr. Frank Poole(Gary Lockwood), and the ship’s computer, the Hal 9000.  I’ll talk about the 4th act later because it takes an….unexpected turn.

For all 5 of you who haven’t seen this movie yet, this is not an action movie.  Far from it.  I’m not entirely sure how I should describe it, but it is a slow movie.  If anything, it makes you rather curious about what’s happening and where it’s going.  For people who like talking heads, this movie ain’t for you.  A lot of what’s going on and how it’s transpiring isn’t done through dialogue.  Instead, it takes a more visual and aural approach to what’s happening on the screen.  This bothered a lot of people.  People wanted someone to actually explain what was happening, but while there is dialogue, the story unfolds in a far more imaginative and visual way.  The use of classical music is also worth mentioning.  The opening sequence which I have posted above features Johann Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra.  Strauss’s Blue Danube also makes an appearance during the opening sequence of the second act.  The music is essentially a character in and of itself.  What you see is like a dance.  The visuals are slow, methodical and match the pace of the music.  Let’s talk about WHAT you see on the screen.   2001 is a visually spectacular film.  Look at the landscapes of the moon.  It’s a combination of miniatures and painting.  The space stations and ship are uniquely designed.  Towards the end of the movie, the special effects really kick into high gear.  It’s phenomenal how much work went into making this a good-looking movie.

The 4th act of the film is where things start getting REALLY weird.  One of the main themes of 2001, is evolution and the final act of the film takes a very bizarre look at where our evolution as a species may lead us.  Is there a villain in this movie?  Yes, it is HAL.  It takes a very murderous turn, but it’s voice is very eerie.

There are a lot of iconic scenes and moments in this movie.  The opening of the film featuring Strauss’s music is one of a kind.  It’s been 20 years since I’ve seen the movie, so I didn’t really remember a whole lot about it before getting into it.  I’ll be honest:  I’ve never really been a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick’s work, with Full Metal Jacket being the only exception.  I can tell you this, he had a very interesting visual style, which is prevalent in all of his movies.  A Space Odyssey is no exception.  It does run long at 150 minutes.  The original release was about 161 minutes, I believe.  In either case, patience is required for a movie like this.  The 4th act of the film really threw people off.  They had no idea what to make of it.  The acting is serviceable, but nothing terribly memorable.  The film isn’t really about the individuals, but rather, the species as a whole and where we are going in this universe as far as evolution is concerned.

Overall, I love this movie.  It’s a very unique film that’s inspired directors like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.  It’s also an incredibly spectacular movie that takes a risk by telling its story through visuals rather than dialogue.  It works.  Until the 4th, you do know what’s happening, but certain specifics are left to your imagination.  I think that’s why this film is extraordinary.  It’s not only a landmark science fiction film in terms of special effects, but it does tell a very human story about evolution, technology and discovery.  This is a movie that still stands up today.  I definitely recommend it, provided you have the patience for it.  9.5/10 is what I’m giving 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The film is rated G, so everyone and their grandma can watch it.  It is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray.  If anyone has any comments or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment or two.