Conan the Generic

AVOID: Conan the Barbarian (2011) – Rated R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity.

The wife and I went to see the new Conan the Barbarian and felt it was not worth what we paid. We had (sort of) FREE tickets from a couple Blu-Rays at Best Buy (Highlander and Kill Bill vol.1). For some odd reason the FREE ticket is only valid for $7.50. Does anyone have a theater where the evening adult price is $7.50 or less?

I was glad to see that the movie was rated R as Conan should have plenty of violence. Unfortunately much of the R rating was for the ridiculous looking CGI blood.

The most egregious fault was the utterly generic script that hit every single cliche we could think of except for what we thought would be the final shot for the movie. The script also vacillates between being a Conan script and being a generic fantasy script so the tone is uneven.

It seems that one of the three writers knew who Conan was and snuck in a few Conan moments here and there. Still he often must have been overruled as Conan at one point drops the revenge he has been living his whole life for in order to save someone in distress.

I understand that Conan is no rocket surgeon but the script makes him out to be a complete moron. He is orphaned and then raised by another warrior. The warrior offers his aid in revenge but Conan rejects it stating that he must do this alone. Later you have essentially the same scenario, only Conan now has a ship full of people at his disposal. Sure enough he has to go it alone again.

Later still Conan accepts the help of a thief to break into a city because Conan is apparently incapable of opening doors but the trip is completely moot as he then just leaves, leaving the thief behind as he must do this alone.

In the climactic battle sequence, the entire area is shaking and falling apart (a la the opening temple in Raiders of the Lost Ark) until the battle sequence. At that point everything stops falling apart. After the battle sequence, everything starts falling apart again until the next battle sequence. This is repeated ad nauseum for no discernible reason.

Jason Momoa is okay as Conan (my wife liked his butt and abs). Rose McGowan, who I liked in Scream and Grindhouse, is actually pretty bad here as Marique and Stephen Lang fails to make an impression as Khalar Zym, which should have been a juicy role. Ron Perlman mostly just growls his way through the clunky dialogue.

I could go on but the goofs and gaffes are not bad enough to make the film funny – just annoying. Well at least my wife enjoyed the popcorn.

 

Fantasy Films – Top Ten List

As this is the end of the year, it seems the time for Top 10 lists. I’ll be doing Top 10 lists of films currently available on instant Netflix. I’ve disqualified all the films that show as expiring on or before 1/1/10. Today is my list of Top 10 fantasy films on instant Netflix (in no particular order though I’ll start with traditional fantasy).

Clash of the Titans

WATCH: Clash of the Titans (1981) – Rated PG.

Okay I admit this list is going to be dominated by Ray Harryhausen. The Clash of the Titans remake is slated to be released early next year and looks to be a lot of fun. Right now though you can watch the original for free. It’s worth it just for the Medusa.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

WATCH: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) – Rated G

Harryhausen’s first color feature is an absolute masterpiece. This is my 2nd favorite Harryhausen movie behind only Jason and the Argonauts. The villain is nefarious, the damsel is alluring and in distress, and the hero is not as wooden as the next two Sinbads.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

WATCH: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) – Rated G.

While Tom Baker (Doctor Who) is a hoot as the villain and the Kali fight is a wonderful highlight, I did not like this one as much as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (it is still excellent though).

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

WATCH: Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) – Rated G

Harryhausen’s final Sinbad film stars Patrick Wayne (son of John), Taryn Power (daughter of Tyrone), Patrick Troughton, and the lovely Jane Seymour. The wondrous Harryhausen creations include skeleton creatures, a baboon, a troglodyte, a tiger and more.

Conan the Barbarian

WATCH: Conan the Barbarian (1982) – Rated R

This is one of the roles Arnold was born to play (or perhaps sculpted would be a better term). Conan is grand and bloody as befits Robert E. Howard’s source material. The film is flawed but it is so darned manly.

Excalibur

WATCH: Excalibur (1981) – Rated R.

Excalibur features incredible scene-stealing performances from Nicol Williamson as Merlin and Helen Mirren as Morgana. It also features mounted armored combat in rich lush forests. John Boorman’s compositions are wonderful and there are early roles from Patrick Stewart, Gabriel Byrne, and Liam Neeson.

The Princess Bride

WATCH: The Princess Bride (1987) – Rated PG for adult language and violence.

The Princess Bride is quite simply one of the best, most heartfelt movies ever made. The next time your loved one asks for something, simply reply “As you wish”.

Krull

WATCH: Krull (1983) – Rated PG for violence.

This film is all over the place. It is definitely a fantasy but the enemy are space aliens. It aims for an adult audience but there is a child protagonist and lots of cute animals for the kids. The leads are a little wooden but Freddie Jones, Francesca Annis, and Bernard Bresslaw are wonderful in secondary roles. Look for Liam Neeson in another early role.

Ghost

WATCH: Ghost (1990) – Rated PG-13.

Alrighty, plot-wise this is supernatural and not fantasy but thematically this is definitely a fantasy. It is also a romance and to maintain my standing as a man, I’m not having a Top Ten Romance list. Unlike The Princess Bride, do not try telling your loved one “ditto” after watching this film. Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg are all magnificent in this movie

Groundhog Day

WATCH: Groundhog Day (1993) – Rated PG.

Here is another film that is thematically fantasy romance while being a comedy plot-wise. Bill Murray is hysterical but also oddly vulnerable as a cynical weatherman. Andie McDowell is wonderful as his producer and Chris Elliott is quite funny as the cameraman.

Conan the Barbarian

In order to narrow down last week’s choices for Swashbuckler week, I eliminated those films dealing with magic. As that is enough to fill another week *surprise*, this week is Sword and Sorcery week. I’ll start with some quintessential Arnold. Conan the Barbarian is currently available on Netflix instant play.

Conan the Barbarian

WATCH: Conan the Barbarian (1982) – rated R

“Catch Arnold before he became a politician! A pure swords-and-sorcery flick, Conan the Barbarian is one of the best and sparked a wave of fantasy films in the early ’80s. When Conan’s parents are killed in a raid, he’s sent to a slave camp where his master trains him to be a warrior and use his skills in high-stakes fights. Once granted his freedom, the muscle-bound bruiser seeks to avenge his parents’ brutal murder and solve the riddle of steel.”

You know when a film opens with a quote from Nietzsche that it’s likely to be dripping with testosterone. Manly John Milius (Red Dawn, Apocalypse Now, Dillinger, Dirty Harry) both directed this and co-wrote it with Oliver Stone. This film overflows with machismo and is well done apart from a bizarre third-act twist. Basil Poledouris’ ponderous bass and drum heavy score is not only fitting and rousing but has been ripped off numerous times for other movies’ trailers. There are many wonderful action pieces throughout the film especially the  big end battle.

While not Arnold’s best film, it is hard to hear the word Conan without picturing Arnold’s incredible physique. Arnold is of course Arnold but that is perfect for this film and without him this film would not have amounted to much. Arnold’s love interest Valeria holds her own and is played ably and very physically by dancer Sandahl Bergman who unfortunately did not receive anywhere near the post-movie boost that Arnold did. They did their own stunts but stuntwoman Corrie Jansen (as a priestess of Doom) took the cake when she set a record by taking a 182-foot free fall plunge.

James Earl Jones oddly plays villain Thulsa Doom. I say oddly because in the books, Thulsa Doom was actually an enemy of Robert E. Howard’s other hero, Kull the Conqueror. Thulsa’s thread runs through the film and he makes a fine villain but in the third act, he becomes the leader of a snake cult that believes in flower power (?!?). The Jim Jones massacre occurred in 1978 and was obviously fresh in the writers’ minds but I’m not sure whether the cult is supposed to reflect them or ‘flower power’ or a mixture of the two. At any rate it seems really jarring especially with the incredibly fake 2nd worst cannibal stew in one sequence – worst goes to the Richard Chamberlain stinker, King Solomon’s Mines. Other than those flaws, the film is very enjoyable.

People Watch: Max von Sydow has a brief but welcome role as King Osric