Conan The Barbarian (2011)


Nu Image Films/ Millenium Films/Paradox Entertainment

Directed by Marcus Nispel

Produced by Avi Lerner and Boaz Davidson

Written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood

Based on the character created by Robert E. Howard

I had high hopes for this reboot/re-imagining of Robert E. Howard’s magnificent creation in the first five minutes of the movie because we see for ourselves what Howard wrote in his stories: that Conan was born on a battlefield.  It’s a horrifically gory birth as Conan’s father Corin (Ron Perlman) performs a rude C-section in order to fulfill his wife’s last wish: that she see her son before she dies.  And as men fight, slay and die around him, Corin holds up his bloody son for the Cimmerian god Crom to see.

That’s the only bit of REH we get in the entire movie as the longer it goes on after that, the more disappointing and generic it gets.  Young Conan (Leo Howard) grows up with a wild, hot temper that his father tries to discipline and direct to no avail.  There’s a nice scene in here that echoes a similar scene in 1982’s “Conan The Barbarian” where Conan’s father forges a sword and Ron Perlman is easily as good here as William Smith was back then when he played Conan’s father.  Unfortunately, Mr. Perlman is never given any dialog anywhere near as good as the marvelous speech about The Riddle of Steel Mr. Smith gets to deliver.  Conan’s village is wiped out and his father tortured by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) a powerful warlord hunting for the scattered pieces of The Mask of Acheron, a mystical artifact made from the skulls of long dead kings and consecrated in blood.  Whoever possesses The Mask of Acheron will have the power to conquer the world.  Khalar Zym wants The Mask in order to resurrect his dead wife, herself a sorceress of immense power.  Corin has a piece of The Mask which Khalar Zym finds with the help of his witch daughter Marique (Rose McGowan).

Twenty years later, now grown up to be Jason Momoa, Conan is a pirate who learns that Khalar Zym and his daughter plan to sacrifice a pureblood descendant of the wizards of Acheron to unlock The Mask’s power as he now possesses all the pieces.  Conan rescues Tamara (Rachel Nichols) who is the last of the purebloods but in a series of events that are horribly contrived and convoluted to give some sort of depth and meaning to the tired plot, she is captured by Zym and Marique and naturally Conan has to rescue her with the help of the master thief Ela-Shan (Said Taghmaoui).

Now, I’m sure this sounds to you like a thrilling movie but in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  Except for the scene of Conan’s birth, there is nothing of Robert E. Howard in this movie at all.  Despite the $90 million budget, this movie actually looks cheaper than the 1982 “Conan The Barbarian” and has none of the lush sets and exotic costume designs of that movie.  The big fight scene with sand creatures conjured up by Marique falls flat.  In fact, for a sword-and-sorcery movie there’s not much sorcery in it.

None of the problems with the movie I lay at the feet of Jason Momoa.  In fact, I liked him a helluva lot here and I only pray to Crom that he gets another shot at playing Conan as he did his absolute best and it’s not his fault he had to work with such a dull story.  And unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, he does a good job of showing Conan’s humorous side.  REH himself made mention in his stories that unlike most Cimmerians, Conan likes to laugh, have a good time and has a wicked sense of humor.  Jason Momoa gets that across.  Especially in a scene where he uses a bad guy to deliver a message via catapult.   And yet he’s totally serious when showing Conan doing what he does best: slaughtering by day, drinking and wenching by night.

Stephen Lang is an immensely talented actor and knows how to play a bad guy but the screenplay just doesn’t give him one to play.  And don’t ask me what my girl Rose McGowan is doing in this mess.  If you’ve been following my reviews you know I love Rose McGowan to death.  She’s enormously talented and due to her co-hosting stint on TCM’s ‘The Essentials’ where she displayed an extraordinary knowledge of classic movies I know she’s brainy as hell.  But this role is so brain-dead and devoid of anything meaningful I can only surmise she had hefty bills to pay and did this one for the money.

So should you see the 2011 incarnation of CONAN THE BARBARIAN?  I’m mixed on this.  On one hand, I say no because this is nothing but a generic barbarian movie that is Conan only in name.  Robert E. Howard’s character and his Hyborian Age do not come to life on the screen here. Stick with 1982’s “Conan The Barbarian” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by John Milius as that is the superior film even after all this time.  Hell, even Albert Pyun’s 1982 “The Sword and The Sorcerer” is closer to REH than this movie.  Even the score is disappointing but then again, the only way this movie could equal the magnificent music of the original would be to have Basil Poledouris do the music and he is regrettably no longer with us.

But on the opposing appendage, Jason Momoa is terrific to watch and he nails the character.  It’s not his fault the director and screenwriters let him down.  And his performance in the movie deserves to be seen.  Otherwise 2011’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN is a major letdown for fans of Robert E. Howard.

113 minutes

Rated R

Conan The Barbarian (1982)


Universal Pictures

Directed by John Milius

Produced by Buzz Feitshans and Raffaella De Laurentiis

Written by John Milius and Oliver Stone

Based on the character/stories created and written by Robert E. Howard

I knew that director John Milius and his screenplay co-writer Oliver Stone got the character of Conan five minutes into the movie.  During the opening credits we see Conan’s father (William Smith) forging a mighty sword.  He then takes the young Conan (Jorge Sanz) to the top of a mountain.  He explains how The Riddle of Steel was stolen from Crom, the god of Cimmeria and that Conan must learn The Riddle of Steel for himself because as his dad succinctly sums up: “For no one in the world can you trust.  Not men, not women, not beasts.  But this-“ and he holds up the gleaming sword.  “-this you can trust.”

It’s not long after this that Conan’s parents, along with all the other adults in his village are slaughtered by the servants of Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) a powerful sorcerer who is also the leader of a cult that worships the snake god Set.  Conan, along with other children are taken as slaves and chained to The Wheel of Pain, a gigantic mill which they push night and day, through weather fair and foul.  It’s torturous work but it has its benefits.  The young Conan grows up into Arnold Schwarzenegger as pushing that damn thing has built up muscles of Herculean proportions.  He’s bought by The Hyborian Age’s version of a fight promoter and wins fame as a gladiator.  He’s freed by his master and after meeting up with the master thief and archer Subotai (Gerry Lopez) takes up a career as a thief himself.

It’s during their attempt to infiltrate The Tower of The Serpent and steal The Eye of The Serpent that Conan meets swordswoman and thief Valeria (Sandahl Bergman) who will become the great love of his life.  It’s their successful and daring theft that brings them to the attention of King Osric (Max von Sydow) who hires the trio to rescue his daughter from The Cult of Set.  While Valeria and Subotai see this as a chance for a really big payday, Conan has his sights on taking the head of Thulsa Doom.

Now, you can say whatever you want about CONAN THE BARBARIAN but it won’t faze me because if nothing else, John Milius and Oliver Stone respected Robert E. Howard’s enough that they obviously not only read his stories but incorporated elements of some of those stories into the movie including what is probably the most famous scene in any Conan story; his crucifixion and his killing of a vulture pecking at his flesh with nothing but his bare teeth.

This movie, along with “The Terminator” launched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career and it’s easy to see why.  Schwarzenegger at that time looked like he was designed by Frank Frazetta and he inhabits the role as well as Sean Connery did with James Bond or Michael Keaton did with Batman.  For those who claim that Schwarzenegger can’t act, I point out a terrific scene where Conan, Valeria and Subotai plan their assault on Doom’s stronghold.  While Bergman and Lopez have all the dialog, Schwarzenegger says far more than they do in the way he’s sharpening his sword.  And even though Schwarzenegger gets a lot of mocking for his dialog and accent in this movie, I like it.  I mean, the guy does sound like a barbarian from pre-history.   In fact, I like it that 90% of the characters have accents in this movie as they do sound as if they come from another age rather than modern day Californians playing dress up.

The supporting cast is outstanding.  James Earl Jones infuses Thulsa Doom with enormous presence and a true sense of not being entirely human.  His henchmen, played by Sven-Ole Thorson and Ben Davison are suitably impressive.  Bergman and Lopez back up Schwarzenegger well and create their own characters in some really wonderful intimate moments such as the one where Subotai tells the wizard Akiro (Mako) that since Conan, as a Cimmerian will not cry to show grief, Subotai must do it for him.  Mako contributes comedy relief without being buffoonish or degrading his own character.  But that’s to be expected because Mako is epic in everything he does.

And speaking of epic, the musical score by Basil Poledouris has become respected as one of the finest musical scores ever and rightly so.  A large part of the enjoyment of watching CONAN THE BARBARIAN comes from the sheer power of the score.  Poledouris also has done the scores for “Quigley Down Under” and “Lonesome Dove” that are easily as epic as the one for this movie.

So should you see CONAN THE BARBARIAN? No doubt you already have.  It’s one of those movies that everybody and their mother has seen, it seems.  Even chicks who normally shun this type of movie like it was the Ebola virus have seen CONAN THE BARBARIAN.  It’s violent, it’s raw, it’s sexy, and it’s fun.   There’s an excellent reason why CONAN THE BARBARIAN is rightly regarded as a classic.  It truly is inspired by the spirit of Robert E. Howard in a way that the recent remake never even comes close to.  If you’ve seen it, what the hell…watch it again.  And if you haven’t, I envy you discovering it for the first time.  Enjoy.

129 minutes

Rated R

Batman: Year One


Warner Bros. Animation/DC Entertainment

Directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery

Produced by Alan Burnett and Lauren Montgomery

Screenplay by Tab Murphy

Based on “Batman: Year One” by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

While Marvel Comics is consistently hitting home runs with their film adaptations of their classic superhero characters, DC Comics is a hit or miss proposition.  We’ve gotten used to Marvel superhero movies being nothing short of epic but DC superhero movies are something of a crapshoot.  I think it’s safe to say that their misses outweigh their hits by a significant margin.  My solution for this is simple: let the talents who produce the DC Animated Films take over doing the live-action movies.  I do not joke.  The talents doing the animated movies have proven over more than two decades now that they’re more in touch with who these characters are and how to tell their stories.  Let’s take BATMAN: YEAR ONE for instance.  The producers and writer of the movie, realizing that the story they had to work with was so strong and so cinematic that they wisely decided there was no need to muck around with it.  So what you’re getting is an amazingly literal translation of the graphic novel to animation.  And it works very well.

Bruce Wayne (Benjamin McKenzie) returns to Gotham City after twelve years abroad.  In that time he’s learned a staggering array of skills ranging from martial arts to spiritual disciplines to science in a dozen different disciplines.  The pain of his parents being murdered right in front of him has not gone away.  But Bruce has no idea how to direct that anger or satisfy his thirst for vengeance.  His first attempt at cleaning up the streets of Gotham is a disaster, leaving him bleeding to death in Wayne Manor.  In delirious despair, he prays to a marble bust of his father for a sign that he should continue his war on crime.  And he gets it.

Lt. James Gordon (Bryan Cranston) has transferred from Chicago’s police department to Gotham with his pregnant wife Barbara (Grey DeLisle) to start a new life and new career.  After having testified against crooked cops in Chicago, it was impossible for Gordon to continue on there but he is appalled and astounded to find that the corruption in Gotham is far worse.   He’s partnered with Detective Flass (Fred Tastasciore) who makes no secret of his taking bribes from drug dealers and Gordon quickly realizes that even Police Commissioner Loeb (Jon Polito) is in on the graft.  Gordon struggles to look the other way but as events unfold, Gotham’s underworld is being terrorized by a dark and terrifying vigilante the media quickly names ‘The Batman’.  Gotham’s police and criminal element unite to kill The Batman and Gordon realizes that he must make a decision as to how he’s going to live his life in Gotham City and what kind of cop he’s going to be.

Sounds like heavy stuff for what a lot of folks would term ‘a cartoon’, right?  Well, yeah, it is.  And I think that’s why I enjoyed BATMAN: YEAR ONE so much.  I got the definite impression that the producers didn’t approach this as an ‘animated movie’ but simply as a ‘movie’ and it shows.  There’s a wealth of emotional, moral and psychological complexity that you don’t find in a lot of live-action superhero movies.  This is easily as good as Christopher Nolan’s two Batman movies and indeed, there are elements of BATMAN: YEAR ONE that were lifted and placed in the Nolan movies.

The voice work is very good.  I like Bryan Cranston a lot as he’s a versatile actor which you know if you’ve seen him in “Malcolm In The Middle” and “Breaking Bad” and he does a good James Gordon.  Benjamin McKenzie isn’t bad at all.  In fact, he’s good but it’s just that I’ve been so spoiled by Kevin Conroy that I can’t help but feel disappointed when he’s not voicing Batman/Bruce Wayne. Eliza Dushku, Katee Sackhoff, Alex Rocco and Jon Polito are all standouts as well.

So should you see BATMAN: YEAR ONE?  If you’re a Batman fan, you probably already have.  As my good friend Chris Munn pointed out to me, there are no surprises in this movie if you’ve read the graphic novel as it sticks to the story beat for beat.  But in this instance I don’t mind because this story of how Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon deal with their first year of living in Gotham City and how they begin their respective careers didn’t need to be changed a bit.

Now if you haven’t seen BATMAN: YEAR ONE and want to, let me give you word of warning: this isn’t Batman for the kiddies.  Go Netflix the 1966 “Batman’ starring Adam West and Burt Ward for them.  This is a dark and mature story that explores adult subject matter.  But by all means, check it out.  Especially if you’ve seen the Nolan Batman movies, this makes for a great companion piece to those excellent films.  Enjoy.

68 minutes

Rated PG-13


Jenny Ringo And The Monkey’s Paw


A Chris Regan Production

Written and Directed by Chris Regan

Produced by Andrea Regan

You do this reviewing thing long enough and eventually people will start assuming that you know what you’re talking about.  For better or worse.  Occasionally you may even get people who have made films on their own asking you to look at their movies and give an honest review of what you think.

And that’s where the rubber meets the road so to speak.  Oh, they’ll always tell you to give them an honest review and tell them exactly what you think.  But they don’t really mean that.  Seriously, they don’t.  Heed my words, people, for I pass this way but once.  And so, I tend not to review movies made by amateur/aspiring filmmakers the same way I do the professional movies.  I don’t take delight in kicking around like a decapitated head any artistic endeavor somebody worked long, hard hours on just because it doesn’t speak to me.  So if I think an amateur movie really isn’t any good, I’ll email the filmmaker privately and tell them why I think their movie didn’t work for me.

And then, you get a nice little gem like JENNY RINGO AND THE MONKEY’S PAW that I can recommend wholeheartedly.  No, it’s not going to make your teeth whiter or fatten your bank account.  But I do think it will give you some chuckles, one or two belly laughs and leave you with a smile on your face at the end and that’s not a bad return on the investment of thirty minutes of your time.

Jenny Ringo (Rosie Duncan) is fed up and disgusted with her slothful flatmate Gavin (Lukas Habberton).  The lazy no-good sits on the couch all day long zoning out thanks to cheap grass and “Friends” reruns.  Meanwhile, the flat is turning into a garbage dump.  Jenny takes off for two weeks to a Wiccan retreat and returns to find two strangers doing the horizontal bop in her bed.  Quite naturally she demands to know who they are and where they came from.  They strangers introduce themselves as Jeff Awesome (Scott Haney) and Candy Gorgeous (Dominque Bull).  And the names do fit as they’re quite awesome and gorgeous.  They’re ever so nice and smile all the time.  But they won’t leave.  And that’s not as placid as it sounds.  Trust me.

So where did they come from, Jenny wants to know.  Gavin simply holds up a monkey’s paw.

Uh oh.

Is there any one of you reading this who doesn’t know the story of “The Monkey’s Paw”?  I hope not because then you really need to shut your computer off and go pick up a book.  The rest of the short film breezes by as Jenny and Gavin try to figure out a way to circumvent the three wishes Gavin has already made to get rid of their unwanted houseguests and put everything aright.

I liked JENNY RINGO AND THE MONKEY’S PAW a lot.  It’s a British production and I’m a big fan of British humor.  And the humor here comes from the situation that the characters find themselves in and their interacting with each other.  It even gets in quite a bit of characterization and tenderness as in the scene where Gavin explains how he feels about Jenny and how that influenced his wishes.

Rosie Duncan is great as Jenny.  She’s got a Catherine Tate vibe about her I found adorable as I’ve got a huge crush on Catherine Tate.  Somehow Rosie Duncan manages to make sarcastic snark sexy.  Between her and Dominque Bull they more than fulfill my eye candy quota.  Lukas Habberton brings a world weary goofiness to Gavin that cracked me up.  Scott Haney and Dominque Bull are really good as the really nice friends who really, really don’t want to leave.  They manage very well to communicate with their eyes and their smile that there’s something not quite right with this pair.  They’re not so much smiling as baring their teeth nicely.

So should you see JENNY RINGO AND THE MONKEY’S PAW?  It isn’t a multi-million dollar production but director Chris Regan makes the most of what he’s got to good effect.  And he even throws in a musical number as well.  The actors look good and they give their characters personality.  It bops along at a breezy thirty minutes and there’s the promise of further Jenny Ringo adventures which I’m looking forward to seeing.  Good job, mates.

JENNY RINGO AND THE MONKEY’S PAW is available for viewing online at Vimeo  for those who bounce on over to and sign up on the mailing list.  Enjoy.

Clash of The Titans (1981)



Directed by Desmond Davis

Written by Beverley Cross

Produced by Ray Harryhausen and Charles H. Schneer

Back in the 1960’s and 70’s us movie lovers didn’t have the CGI laden epic  motion pictures that you see nearly every week opening in the local cineplexes nowadays.  In fact, back then the success of a science fiction or fantasy movie largely rested on how good the special effects were.   Special effects back then was truly an art.  Especially stop motion animation which was time consuming and took patience that we attribute to saints.   Or the acknowledged master of stop motion animation, Ray Harryhausen.

Today, Ray Harryhausen’s films are rightfully acclaimed as masterpieces of the stop motion animation techniques.   The classic sword fight between three men and eight skeletons in “Jason and The Argonauts” is regarded as the finest stop motion animation sequence ever committed to film.  What makes Mr. Harryhausen’s work even more remarkable is that he did all the stop motion animation in his movies by himself.  He never employed assistants until the movie we’re now discussing.   Mr. Harryhausen retired after he made CLASH OF THE TITANS and I like to think that he saw the handwriting on the wall and realized that the sophisticated special effects techniques that were being developed by studios such Industrial Light and Magic were being embraced by movie audiences and not his hand crafted stop motion.  By the time CLASH OF THE TITANS hit theaters, we’d already seen “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back” and movie audiences wanted to see movies in futuristic settings and so Mr. Harryhausen’s mythological based movies were no longer popular.  But if he had to go out, he did it in style.

CLASH OF THE TITANS is a retelling of the legend of Perseus, Harryhausen style.  As a baby, Perseus and his mother Danae are thrown into the sea locked inside of a wooden ark by his grandfather, King Acrisius of Argos.  Turns out Acrisius has made a really bad call here as Danae was impregnated by none other than The King of The Gods, Zeus (Laurence Olivier) himself.  Zeus doesn’t take kindly to his baby mama and his son being treated in such a manner and orders Poseidon (Jack Gwillim) to release the last of The Titans: a fearsome creature of tremendous rage and power called The Kraken.  The Kraken destroys Argos, the kingdom of Acrisius while Perseus and his mother are brought to a safe shore where Perseus grows up to become Harry Hamlin.

And here’s where we get to the best part of the movie; where the gods of Olympus start meddling in mortal affairs.  The goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith) in revenge for Zeus transforming her handsome son Calibos (Neil McCarthy) into a hideous man-beast dumps Perseus half a world away in the kingdom of Joppa.  But to be fair to Zeus, Calibos did almost kill all of Zeus’ entire herd of winged stallions with only Pegasus escaping.

Perseus catches just a glimpse of the supernaturally beautiful Princess Andromeda of Joppa (Judi Bowker) and vows to marry her.  But because of a curse laid on Andromeda by her would-be suitor Calibos, Perseus has to first solve a riddle or be burned at the stake.  With the help of his new found friend, the playwright/poet Ammon (Burgess Meredith) a helmet of invisibility and the winged Pegasus, he manages to find the answer to the riddle and that only makes things worse.  See, he had to cut off the hand of Calibos to do so and that really pisses off Thetis who demands the life of Andromeda in thirty days or The Kraken will be released to destroy the kingdom of Joppa.  And so Perseus sets forth on a quest to find the only thing on Earth capable of destroying The Kraken: the head of Medusa the Gorgon which can turn anyone or anything who looks upon it into unliving stone.

I oughta say up front that I have no patience with those CGI junkies who refuse to watch a Ray Harryhausen movie because the special effects are ‘cheesy’ and the stories are ‘corny’.  The special effects of a Ray Harryhausen movie are nothing less than a true labor of love of a master who gave up time he could have been spending with his family and friends to provide the world with entertainment and I for one appreciate it.  Is CLASH OF THE TITANS his best work?  Well, to be honest, no.  But it is a whole lot of fun if you approach it in the right way and watch it the way it should be seen: on a Saturday afternoon with a whole lot of snacks and friends.

Laurence Olivier has a great deal of fun playing Zeus and his “Release The Kraken!” line is one delivered with a gusto that you can only get from Shakespearean actors playing Greek gods.  Claire Bloom almost fades into the background as Hera and while the idea of casting Ursula Andress as Aphrodite, Goddess of Love is an inspired one, she is given nothing to do with the role.  Maggie Smith as Thetis is the real opponent to Zeus in the movie as she tries to thwart Perseus at every turn.

Which leads me to my major problem with the movie: Perseus really isn’t much of a hero.  He’s got all the breaks right from birth.  He’s the son of Zeus, which makes him half-god.  He’s handsome and he’s given magical weapons to accomplish all of his deeds.  Weapons which he treats with utter carelessness and either loses or is destroyed.  There really isn’t anything Perseus does to deserve being the hero outside of the fact he happened to have the right daddy.

In fact I actually felt sorry for the bad guy in this one.  Yeah, Calibos messed up and should have been punished for his misdeeds but when his own mother even turns his back on him after Calbos has humbled himself and pleads on his knees for forgiveness and justice…it’s a powerful scene and one you wouldn’t expect to find in what has been dismissed as ‘a kiddie movie’.  It’s a scene that’s just as good as the one where Perseus confronts Medusa.  She’s stalking Perseus and his men in a ruined, dimly lit temple, picking them off one by one with her bow and arrows.  All they can hear is her slithering along the ground and the deadly twang of her bow as she fires the arrows.  And Moly Hoses, whatever you do, don’t look her in the face…

So should you see CLASH OF THE TITANS?  By all means, yes.  If you call yourself a movie fan then you should have already seen this movie and if you haven’t, put it on your Netflix queue or wait for it to show up on Tuner Classic Movies.  Ignore the annoying metal owl Bubo and the plastic acting of Judi Bowker and just take the movie for what it is and you’ll have a good time.  Enjoy.

118 minutes

Rated: PG






Universal Pictures

Directed by Tarsem Singh

Produced by Mark Canton and Ryan Kavanaugh

Written by Vlas Parlapanides and Charley Parlapanides

When I first saw “The Cell” way back in 2000 I knew right there and then that Tarsem Singh was a director I’d be watching.  When so many directors are content to offer us product, Tarsem Singh goes way out there in order to give us movies that are visual treats.  “The Cell” is perhaps the most original serial killer movie I’ve ever seen in terms of story and visuals.  I wasn’t as excited with his second feature, “The Fall”.  Oh, it’s gorgeous to look at and at times even eye-popping but the story is muddled and while watching it I wished mightily that Tarsem had done it as a straight-up adventure fantasy and left the real world stuff for another movie.  It’s worth watching, believe me.  But it’s an effort to try and marry up two totally different movies into one and that trick rarely works.

So where does IMMORTALS stand when placed up against this director’s other two movies?  I still say that “The Cell” is his best movie and “The Fall” his poorest so I guess that leaves IMMORTALS in the middle.  It’s as outrageously visual as those other movies and indeed, I’d recommend the movie solely on that basis.  But I gotta be honest and tell you that the story could use work.  IMMORTALS is a very confused movie as it flip-flops back and forth because it can’t make up it’s mind if it wants to be “300” or 2010’s “Clash of The Titans”

In ancient Greece, the ruthless and powerful King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) runs amuck.  He’s looting, killing, pillaging, raping and generally carrying on cranky in his quest to find The Epirus Bow.  Once wielded by Ares himself, The Epirus Bow is the only thing that can release The Titans from their imprisonment deep in the bowels of Mount Tartarus.  Now if The Titans are released, that is going to mean very bad things not only for humanity but for The Gods of Olympus.  To put it mildly.

Zeus (Luke Evans) the King of The Gods of Olympus forbids his fellow gods to interfere, decreeing that the humans must be allowed to exercise free will and settle this matter themselves.  That’s all well and good and noble, Zeus’ daughter Athena (Isabel Lucas) says wisely.  And just as wisely she points out that it’s their immortal asses The Titans are gonna come for when they get free.

But Zeus has placed his faith in Theseus (Henry Cavill) a humble peasant who nonetheless demonstrates astounding fighting skills that would wring tears of envy from a Spartan.  Theseus has no belief or faith in the gods and would rather be left alone and not get involved.  But fate has other plans for him and soon, Theseus finds himself on a quest to find The Epirus Bow for himself, joined by the Oracle Phaedra (Frieda Pinto) and the wily master thief Stavros (Stephen Dorff).

I can’t stress enough how amazing the movie looks.  I’d love to see what Tarsem could do with a movie based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric or Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser.  And Tarsem does a great job of swiping Zack Snyder’s style of directing fight scenes.  There’s a scene where Theseus is trying to rescue his mother by cutting his way through a bunch of soldiers who apparently were tired of living and if I didn’t know I was watching IMMORTALS I’d have sworn it was a scene from “300” And there’s a kick-ass throwdown between The Olympians and The Titans that is simply astounding.  There just isn’t any other word for it.

That’s the good stuff.  The bad? We’ve got big long gaps between the awesome fight scenes and those are scenes that are way too serious for this material.  Let’s be honest here: IMMORTALS at its core is a 1950’s Italian sword-and-sandal epic on CGI steroids.  And only Stephen Dorff seems to realize that’s what it is and acts accordingly.  He’s nothing but fun every time he’s on screen.  Mickey Rourke is also fun but in a different way.  I’m convinced he was channeling Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now” He’s got several scenes where he’s sitting in shadow, delivering these baffling speeches about destiny and legend and leaving his footprint on the world.  I’m convinced that his army wears masks all the time so that the confused looks on their faces won’t give them away and incur Hyperion’s wrath.  But still, he’s Mickey Rourke and I wouldn’t have missed seeing him in a fantasy adventure movie for all the sugar in Cuba.

What else?  Henry Cavill reminded me a lot of Sam Worthington in 2010’s “Clash of The Titans” in that he looks and acts appropriately heroic as he’s supposed to.  As his Oracle, Frieda Pinto is drop-dead gorgeous.  But can she act? you ask.  You can keep on asking.  I dunno.  She’s drop-dead gorgeous, I toldja.  I quite enjoyed Luke Evans as Zeus even though his wardrobe leaves a lot to be desired.  Say what you want about Liam Neeson’s sparkly armor, as least he knew how to dress like the King of The Gods.  Still, Luke Evans and Isabel Lucas provided me with some of the movie’s best scenes.

So should you see IMMORTALS?  It depends. I hesitate to recommend a movie simply on it’s visuals but that is the strongest aspect of IMMORTALS.  And those visuals are best enjoyed on a movie screen.  However, if you’ve got one of those wall sized flatscreens, it should look amazing on Blu-Ray. I recently watched it on Netflix as it’s currently available for streaming and it still looked gorgeous.   But however you see it, IMMORTALS is worth seeing because it’s the vision of a truly talented director with a remarkable style of his own.  One worth nurturing and supporting.

110 minutes

Rated R

Jesus Christ Superstar


Universal Studios

Directed by Norman Jewison

Produced by Robert Stigwood

Screenplay by Melvyn Bragg

Based on the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice

The movie begins with a bus driving across a huge, vast desert.  It stops and a large group of men and women get out.  They unload props and costumes and we get the point that they’re preparing to perform and/or rehearse a play of some sort.  Now given how the movie ends I have a couple of theories about this whole scenario.  One, this is a bunch of actors who by the end of their rehearsal/performance have gotten so deep and far into their roles that an unimaginable tragedy occurs.  Or that they are religious fanatics who are reenacting the story of Jesus Christ and deliberately sacrifice one of their own to have a proper end to the story.

Or it could just be a pretty entertaining musical we’re watching called JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR.

Calling it a musical isn’t exact, though. It’s a Rock Opera, a form of musical theater popular in the 70’s and 80’s.  “Tommy” “Hair” “Godspell” and “Pippin” are examples of this.  It’s called a Rock Opera because the score is rock music and there is no spoken dialog.  Everything is sung.  JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR remains even today the most controversial of the Rock Operas because of the subject matter: an exploration of the last days of Jesus Christ (Ted Neely) seen primarily through the eyes of Judas Iscariot (Carl Anderson) Mary Magdalene (Yvonne Ellman) and Peter (Philip Toubus)


First of all, I love the look of this movie as it was filmed in The Holy Land and among ruins in The Middle East.  It gives the movies a stark, arid atmosphere that I think works so that we can concentrate on the music and the performances and not be distracted by garish, glitzy sets.  We already know how the story ends.  What is important here is how it’s presented.

Every musical (or Rock Opera) succeeds or fails on its music and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR has some pretty epic songs.  Most people know the song “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” as performed by the amazing Yvonne Ellman who also played Mary Magdalene in the Broadway production.  But to me there are songs just as good if not better.  My favorites are “The Last Supper” and the awesomely poignant “Could We Start Again, Please?” which is sung primarily by Mary and Peter as they beg Jesus for him to take everything back the way it was when things began long after it’s way to late for that.  “What’s The Buzz?” is such a favorite of mine that some of you who have conversed with me on the phone/Skype/IM know that oftentimes I’ll start the conversation with the song’s refrain; “What’s the buzz?  Tell me what’s a’happening?”  Josh Mostel (the son of Zero) has a showstopper “Try It And See” that is totally whacked out and just a lot of fun to watch and hear.  It’s a song you’ll want to hear more than once, trust me.  Judas also has a number called “Damned For All Time” that is amazing in the anguish and power Carl Anderson delivers.


In fact, Carl Anderson as Judas walks off with the acting/singing honors in this one.  He gets to perform the very first song in the movie; “Heaven on Their Minds” which to me sets the tone for the entire relationship in the movie between Jesus and Judas.  And when he sings the title tune; “Jesus Christ Superstar” his energy is astounding to watch.  Ted Neely as Jesus is no Jeffrey Hunter but he can sing and he’s got such a haunting look in his eyes that you can’t take your eyes off him.  Yvonne Ellman besides her career on Broadway enjoyed a very good run with her disco hit; “If I Can’t Have You.” And she’s great as Mary Magdalene.


In fact, the thing I really like about this movie is the exploration of the extraordinary relationship between Jesus and Judas which is one that has infinitely fascinated me since I was a boy in Sunday School.  There is a scene between Judas and Jesus where they dispute about Mary’s buying ointment to put on the feet and head of Jesus.  Mary sings “Everything’s Alright” while Jesus and Judas clasp hands and look deep into each other’s eyes.  In that scene there is a resolution and commitment to their shared destiny that is both affirming and terrifying.

And I’ll leave it up to you to determine what it means in the final scene when the actor who plays Judas is still alive when the actors shed their costumes and props and get back on the bus while we don’t see the actor who played Jesus at all.


So should you see JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR?  I say yes.  As entertainment and as a cultural artifact, it is most definitely worth seeing.  My wife Patricia doesn’t like the movie because she feels that any movie dealing with Jesus Christ should depict The Resurrection and we don’t get that here.  This goes back to my opening interpretation of the movie.

But I digress.  JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is available for streaming on Netflix and I heartily endorse it purely as entertainment.  You want religious guidance and instruction? Go to the church or religious institution of your choice.

108 minutes

Rated G