Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Quest

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in "The Quest", a 1996 martial arts film about Christopher Dubois and his journey of self-discovery. The film follows Chris from the streets, barely getting by and taking care of a group kids, to being sold into the seedy world of fighting competition. Chris learns about a fighting tournament and enlists the help of the man that betrayed him to get the tournament's prize: a dragon statue made of solid gold. The film also stars Roger Moore, James Remar, Janet Gunn and Jack McGee.

The film's story was overall a good one, but it did suffer from some pacing issues in my opinion. It felt like there was so much crammed into the  first half hour, then it slows down, then it picks back up only to slow down again. It's never bad enough to where you get a feeling of being bored, but it could have been better. Another issue with the story is...well this is practically "Bloodsport" . Sure there are some changes, but overall I got the feeling that after Van Damme hit his post "Street Fighter" slump, he went back to the film that made him famous. It may sound odd, but I think doing so worked out here and it makes for an enjoyable story.

The acting is where this movie shines, and with so many great actors in the film, how couldn't it?  Jean-Claude Van Damme was entertaining in the film and unlike with "Street Fighter" actually showed some emotion as well as the outstanding action he is known for. Roger Moore as Lord Dobbs was good, as was Jack McGee who played his sidekick Harry Smythe. James Remar as the boxing champ Maxie Devine was a highlight of the film for me as I felt he did a great job with the character and came across as a believable professional fighter and sportsman.

The action was as entertaining as you would expect and it seems like as director, Van Damme wanted authentic looking fights for this film. It never goes to the point where anything looks  unrealistic, and I feel that makes for a better action film. If anything my one complaint about the action is with the use of slow motion and showing the same moves from different angles a second or third time, it gets repetitive after awhile.

Is "The Quest" a great martial arts film? Not really, but it is an enjoyable film to watch. It has its faults such as plot points that make no sense and a strong resemblance to "Bloodsport" but it makes up for it with great action and exciting moments.With outstanding actors and action you might want to check out this film, especially if you're a fan of Van Damme.

Verdict: May not be entertaining for everyone, but enjoyable for fans of the genre/ JCVD.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

World War Z

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that zombies are all the rage these days. With the popularity of the genre coming back and the success of The Walking Dead, it was only a matter of time before some big screen films were made. So when I heard that there was going to be a film adaptation of the outstanding book "World War Z", I was ecstatic. So was this the outstanding big budget Zombie film we've been waiting for, or was it just garbage?

The plot, to be perfectly honest was the weakest point of this film for me. Now it wasn't just the story itself, but the way they handled the main character: Gerry Lane. I guess no one on the writing team got the memo, but in order to get invested in a character they need to be interesting and in a zombie film they need to be in some kind of danger. That wasn't the case here, where the character survives event after event and walks away. Aside from that its a decent story, despite having almost nothing to do with the source material. It was a smart story which is rare for a film in the genre, and still had the thrills you would expect. 

The acting was extremely solid and I was surprised by Brad Pitt. He turned in a great performance and I would go so far as to say it is one of his best. The supporting actors such as Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertez and Peter Capaldi as a W.H.O. doctor....yes the next star of Doctor Who was a W.H.O. doctor, they were all great. Even the background characters did an alright job, but its hard to really pinpoint specific characters since they are only on screen for a few moments. 

The action and thrills of the film were entertaining, though some of the effects did look a bit cheesy. For instance when there is a massive horde of zombies moving around, it really didn't look all that impressive to me. On the plus side though, the makeup effects for the zombies during closeups looked outstanding and meshed well with the "normal" human characters.

Overall its not as bad as I was expecting after hearing peoples views on it. While I would have liked something that was closer to the book written by Max Brooks, I think they did alright considering all of the issues they had during production. While its not a perfect movie, I think its pretty damn good.

Verdict: Worth giving it a watch at least once


Friday, November 8, 2013

Masters of The Universe

What happens when a cartoon is popular? It gets a film adaptation! What happens when that film is made by Canon films? You get a film adaptation that is mid to low budget and is loosely tied to its source material. Such is the case with Masters of The Universe, a 1987 film starring Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella. It took the popular He-Man and The Masters of The Universe property and took it to Hollywood. Was the resulting film an action filled adventure film? Yes, but was it a good or bad movie?

The film stars Dolph Lundgren as He-Man, the defender of Eternia and arch-nemesis of Skeletor. Skeletor has trapped the sorceress of Grayskull and wants to gain all of her power when the great eye of the galaxy opens. Our heroes He-Man, Man at Arms and Teela are forced to escape to earth and regroup for another assault only to have lost their way home, the cosmic key. Can they find the key before Skeletor's forces do and get back to Eternia in time to stop him?

The plot is pretty standard fare for a fantasy film, but it was still entertaining. Even though I'm not  really familiar with the story of the cartoon, I didn't find it was necessary to know the full story to enjoy the movie for what it is. The overall story was good, but the weak point of the movie is the time spent on Earth. It felt like the epic world and story on Eternia was the bookend to the mediocre one on earth wedged in the middle. Had some of the original plot points, such as He-Man's mother being from Earth been included, it might have made the Earth Segments more interesting.

The acting is where most of the criticism on this film lands. I think Dolph Lundgren was good in the role as He-Man, especially for it being early on in his career, though no doubt he was cast due to him looking the part. Frank Langella as Skeletor is without a doubt the highlight of the movie, he nailed being an over the top villain and his performance was perfect. James Tolkan was great as Detective Lubic and had outstanding reactions to what was happening and great delivery of one liners. The supporting cast was good as well, my only complaint was with Courtney Cox who didn't seem to be playing a character so much as playing herself.

The music of the movie was fantastic, and really helped boost up the epic feeling of the film. Bill Conti's main theme for the movie was an amazing mix of everything I love about John Williams' work with both Star Wars and Superman and mixes together and makes for a great musical score. It has a nice mix of both heroic segments and also more dramatic sounds and just pushes the epic feeling of the movie to 10.

While popular opinion is that this movie was horrible, I really have to disagree. Taking into consideration the time the movie was made in and its technological and budget restrictions, I think it was a decent movie. It may not have been the "Star Wars of the 80's" that Canon proclaimed it to be, but they were known for over hyping things. What it is though is a great action adventure movie that is fun to watch and not take too seriously.

Verdict: Nostalgic cheese at its finest and great throwback to 80's fantasy films.


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