Conan the Barbarian: A Fun Action Flick…Better Suited For Your Xbox

22 08 2011

A remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1982 cult classic, Conan the Barbarian stars Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephan Lang, Ron Perlman and Rose McGowan. Here’s the breakdown:

As a young boy, Conan (Momoa) witnesses the massacre of his village and family, including his father (Perlman), by the ruthless warlord Khalar Zym. Zym and his witch daughter Marique (McGowan) are after pieces of a mystical mask that, once assembled, will turn Zym into a god. Conan grows up to be a warrior and a thief, all the while seeking his father’s murderer. When the grown Conan stumbles across Zym, still on his god-quest, an epic struggle ensues, and the fate of the world and the fate of an innocent girl (Nichols) who’s ancestral blood is the key to Zym’s plans hangs in the balance.

The Monkey: Conan the Barbarian was, most noticeably, visually stunning. From idyllic Cimmerian villages to sprawling temple cities, this movie definitely delivered audiences an epic feel.

It was also nice to sit through a hard-R action adventure, where nudity and violence weren’t shied away from. It’s a story that lends itself to such excess and never did it feel over-the-top or unnecessary (although a certiain scene involving a finger and a nose had me squirming).

The fight scenes were extremely well choreographed and surprisingly original. A standout scene involving bewitched sand warriors was by far the best action piece in the movie and was incredibly entertaining, original and looked amazing in 3D. And Stephan Lang’s Zym and his double-bladed sword action was some of the best and most exciting sword work since Star Wars.

Jason Momoa and Stephen Lang played their respective roles well, playing off each other and bringing a believable amount of chemistry to the screen. While I wasn’t entirely convinced that Momoa could take on the Conan mantle (based on the movie’s marketing), he surprised and fit the role with the right amount of humor, brawn and bravado. Perlman was, as ever, enjoyable as Conan’s stalwart father, Corin.

The Weasel: The rest of the cast was a bit weak. Rachel Nichols’ whining Tamara was an unlikable love interest and would-be heroine. And Rose McGowan’s villainous Marique was almost comical; how that woman and her immovable Botox addled mug get any acting gigs at all amazes me.

The plot played out much like a video game. I half-expected to see “level-ups” and “loading” bars between scenes. This led to the movie’s biggest problem; a lack of urgency and danger. Zym had been searching for the mask for decades and yet he was just now letting the pieces fall into place? Just as Conan happens to be of ripe ass-kicking age? The movie really could have used a “race against time” feel to it. In addition, the video game quality caused each fight scene to become repetitive; yes we know Conan can kill, yes we know he’ll win – there was never any real sense of danger, and each time Conan was pitted against enemies, it just made the next encounter that much more unnecessary.

Momoa has supposedly written a sequel to Conan the Barbarian and sees this movie as his ticket to even more leading roles. Unfortunately, I think the poor box office and negative reviews might set him back a bit. And that sequel? Yeah, probably not happening.

Conan the Barbarian is an action-packed, violent, testosterone-fest. And it’s fun. While it suffers in the acting and plot department, the action scenes and the 3D make this a fun, B-sword-and-sandals flick. Don’t expect any more.

3 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Is this newer Conan a worthy reboot? Did Momoa do an adequate job of filling Schwarzenegger’s shoes? Do you want to see a sequel? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Season of the Witch: A Movie That Should Be Buried In A Ditch

7 01 2011

Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman star in Season of the Witch, yet another attempt to help Cage payback his excessive IRS debt. Here’s the breakdown:

Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) are brothers-in-arms, fighting valiantly in the Crusades. But when they become disillusioned with the motivations of the Church, the duo desert, quickly coming upon a plague-ridden land. The plague is attributed to the machinations of “The Black Witch,” and the local church authorities task Behmen and Felson with delivering the young girl to the monks of Severak to be put on trial. They are accompanied by a priest, a seasoned knight, a merchant and an altar boy – and each must battle the elements and the deceptions of the witch to survive the journey.

The Monkey: The movie opens with a truly compelling teaser. Three women are put on “trial” for witchcraft and brutally murdered, followed by a creepy scene that sets a wonderful tone for the movie, promising a ghoulishly good time.

Surprisingly, Cage and Perlman were palatable, neither bothering with feigned European accents (thank god). Perlman acted as the comic relief, and his asides were genuinely funny, if a bit anachronistic.

Relative newcomer Claire Foy played the titular witch with the perfect mix of mystery, sensuousness and evil. She brought an astonishing amount of depth to a character that could easily have been cliché and stereotypical. I really hope to see more of her in the future (despite her eerie likeness to wooden-actress-extraordinaire, Kristen Stewart).

The Weasel: You know going into a movie like this that the plot will be formulaic, the acting will be subpar and the ending will be predictable. Season of the Witch delivered on all these counts, but on an epic scale. After the movie’s promising opening scene, it all went downhill from there.

Audiences are “treated” to an endless montage of Behmen and Felson fighting countless battles in the Crusades, wearing ridiculous armour and clanging cheap prop broadswords in slow motion. This whole sequence was unnecessary and slowed the movie to a grinding halt within the first 20 minutes – and the movie never recovered.

Audiences are then introduced to the rag-tag team of witch bait, but care so little about any of them (Behmen and Felson included), that when they are summarily and predictably picked off one-by-one, the only emotion elicited is excitement that the credits are imminent. The deaths aren’t clever or gruesome enough to be memorable and the obstacles our team of heroes must overcome are so mundane and cliché, it’s mind-numbing. There were countless opportunities to turn seen-before moments on their head, in particular, the “we have to cross the rickety old bridge” scene (which appears in about every action movie where a rickety bridge might happen to be). But no – Season of the Witch doesn’t even bother adding anything new, delivering yet another anti-climactic “action” scene.

The movie continued to unravel, and by the time the zombie monks show up, it’s too little too late, and you’re actually rooting for the witch to slaughter everyone and end the movie. During the climactic battle scene, I was praying that Ron Perlman would transform into Hellboy, blow everyone to smithereens, smirk at the camera and say, “Hellboy 3, hitting theatres summer 2012.” No such luck. It’s too bad, because Season of the Witch had the potential to be a creepy, gruesome, medieval version of the modern slasher flick – but it just ended up being…awful.

A truly epic failure of a movie that belongs alongside the straight-to-DVD Uwe Boll drivel.

0.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Is Nicolas Cage taking on any role to help pay his back taxes? Can you even believe Christopher Lee had a cameo? Or, do you completely disagree – did you like the movie? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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