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conanThe granddaddy of all Arnie films.  This is where the magic began.  It’s hard to believe that this little action movie in 1982 would have created the greatest action movie hero all time and probably the greatest living naturalized American.  I watched this movie when I was a teen and I wanted to be muscle bound like Arnold.  Alas my love of jelly beans and candy corn did me in.  But that didn’t mean I didn’t dream.  Oh I dreamed all right.  Dreamed big.

               As a young boy, Conan, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (End of Days,) witnesses the murder of his parents and entire village at the hands of Thulsa Doom, played by James Earl Jones (Star Wars,) and his band of warriors.  As an adult Conan and his band of adventurers were hired by King Osric, played by Max von Sydow (The Exorcist,) to find and rescue his daughter from the snake cult.  This snake cult is led by Thulsa Doom so Conan goes out to capture the princess and get revenge for his family.

               One of the first things I remembered about the film that people talked about was the fact that Arnold didn’t have a lot of dialogue in the movie, especially for the lead of a movie.  It was counted that he had only spoke 700 words in the movie.  I have some friends who said that was still too much but they have no clue about the greatness of Arnold.  One of the interesting things about this script is that one of the writers on it is non-other than Academy Award winner Oliver Stone.  He and director John Milius made a very good action movie with a decent story as Conan is actually based on the comic book.  There is a line in the film that is often quoted, “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and here the lamentation of the women.”  Pure poetry.

It’s pretty surprising to me that both Max von Sydow and James Earl Jones were in the movie.  Jones was a household name by this time in early 80’s not only because of his Academy Award nomination for a movie called The Great White Hope, but most people knew him as the voice of Darth Vador.  Sydow had been nominated for a Golden Globe for The Exorcist so he too had been a prominent actor.  This movie even won a Golden Globe award for best newcomer for an actress by Sandahl Bergman (All That Jazz.)  For what is known as a cheesy action movie there are a lot of quality actors in the film. 

The action is, of course, what makes this film and there are lots of good scenes.  The action is quick and fast paced but one thing I do like is that there is no gratuitous violence in the film.  There is lots of violence in the film and lots of blood, but I feel that it wasn’t unnecessary.   From the beginning the violence was used to drive the characters or the story so I didn’t think it was over the top.  The two action scenes that stand out for me is the fight in the orgy room and the one on the hill.  The movie has some wonderful music in that makes the fight scenes that much better.  That and the sword fights between Arnold and the henchman were fun because almost all of the henchmen where friends of his from his body building days. 

A funny thing about this film is that Arnold portrays a character that shows him hooking up with three women in the film.  I only mention it because it because I have seen all but maybe 4 of his movies and I can’t remember him hooking up in any of the other films.  I just find it humorous that his action films are really void of females after his first one.  It’s as if to say that we should avoid all talk of women while we enjoy or action films.  Heck even in this film one of the ladies he has sex with ends up being a demon of some kind trying to kill him.  So women are bad!

This movie won my heart as a child and many children my age.  This movie created a permanent movie going audience that Arnold would have for 20 years before he became the Governor of California.  When he came back to acting he is older and action movies are harder for him, but his fans, like me will always be loyal.

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key largoThis is a movie review challenge from Benn Farrell to me.  Actually I set the parameters of the challenge this month because I know Benn dislike most movies made before 1970.  The challenge for us this month is to review two movies made before 1970, one of them has to have been made before 1960.

I am a fan of the late great Humphrey Bogart. Every one of his movies that I have seen, I have enjoyed.  I haven’t seen a lot of them but the ones I have seen are enjoyable.   He seems like he is one of the original tough guys of Hollywood.  He isn’t a physically imposing figure on screen like Arnold or Stallone or even Clint Eastwood. In movies like The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, or The Big Sleep, it’s the way he carries himself in the movies that makes him a tough guy.  I don’t know, maybe it’s the era that these movies were made because I wouldn’t really call him a cerebral tough guy either.   It’s the style he has that displays toughness in all of his films I have seen. Well except for this one.  In the case of the film noir classic Key Largo, he comes across as a tough guy almost by being insubordinate which is kind of weird.  But I still like.

Frank McCloud, played by Humphrey Bogart (The Maltese Falcon,) is a World War II veteran heading to Key Largo Florida.  He is heading there to meet Nora, played by Lauren Bacall (The Big Sleep,) and her father James, played by Lionel Berrymore (It’s a Wonderful Life,) who are the wife and father of Frank’s good friend that was killed during the war.  When Frank arrives at the hotel that James and Nora own, he runs into a strange cast of characters who have rented every room in the hotel.  It turns out that these men are henchman for famous mob boss Johnny Rocco, played by Edward G. Robinson (Double Indemnity,) who is hiding out in the hotel with his girlfriend Gaye, played by Claire Trevor (Stagecoach.)  Frank is stuck trying to keep Nora and James safe and not appear to threating to Rocco until the mob guys leave for Cuba.

Bogart approached the character of Frank McCloud in a fairly interesting way.   McCloud seems like a damaged WW II vet and shows no over the top heroism.   There is a scene where Rocco offers up a handgun to McCloud and tells him to shoot him with it.  McCloud grabs the gun but makes no threatening jesters with it and quietly puts it back down.  Both James and Nora look at him with some surprise considering his war history.  The deputy who is the captive of Rocco takes the gun and aims at Rocco as he tries to work his way out of the room.  He gets to the door and tries to use the gun only to discover it is empty at which time Rocco shoots the deputy.  Both James and Nora look at Frank differently.  Here is the interesting part, when James asks Frank if he knew that the gun was empty almost begging Frank to say yes.  Frank vehemently denies that he did saying that he wanted no part of the heroism that there was nothing to risk his life for and he just wanted to live, almost sheepishly.  However, every time James or Nora acts rebellious against Rocco Frank makes sure to get in between Rocco and the two and sometimes take the punishment for them.  In fact the fun scene was the result of one of those interferences.    To me this is a different character to the one he played in Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep but more like is Casablanca character.

laurenbI would be remiss in my man duties if I didn’t mention the hotness of Lauren Bacall.  She is an absolutely lovely woman in this film and she can act.  Of course it’s the 1940’s so there is no skin at all but I would argue that it makes her even that more attractive in the film.  I will also say she is quite the actress.  In this film she comes off as a very strong woman who isn’t afraid to stand up to Rocco as he weasels his way around her.  I will say that it is somewhat odd that while her character has mourned for the loss of her husband that she so quickly latches on Frank.  Although I have seen other old films and that seems to help the romance of the movie along.

The one odd thing about this film is that Claire Trevor won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in this roll.  She plays the alcoholic sex object of Rocco and that’s it.  I called her girlfriend in the write up but I really wouldn’t call her that.  There is nothing spectacular about her performance as this kind of character.  I suppose if it’s the first appearance of this type of character in movie history then I suppose it is worth an award.  But that would be the only reason.  Else it’s just like every other performance of a woman, or a man for that matter, who is under some kind of addiction that has lead their life astray but does the right thing at the end of the movie.

The last thing I will say, which is kind of odd because it should have been the first, is that this film has what became every Hollywood cliché mocked in it.  I remember as a child growing up the Bugs Bunny cartoons and whenever Bugs had to deal with a mobster type character, Edward G Robinson would be that character that Bugs or Daffy or whomever would have to deal with.  Even Bogart’s damaged veteran look with shoulders hunched over was mocked in Warner Brothers cartoons.  So if you want to see where WB came up with so many of its mob or dramatic type characters then watch this film.

Overall I would say that this is a good film if you like Film-Noir.  It has the classic elements of water and women and drama.  It does drag a little in parts and the whole Indian sub plot was kind of annoying, especially the part that shows this really old Indian woman smoking a cigarette handed to her by Bacall’s character.  Other than that you could do a whole lot worse if you want to see a classic film noir film.  If you haven’t ever seen a Bogart film before, I would still start off with Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon, but Key Largo is a good film to go to after those two.

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the Raven

When I saw the trailers for this movie I was excited because as a teenager I was an Edgar Allan Poe fan and I have always like John Cusack. At this time Cusack had been on a roll starring in the disaster movie 2012 and the ridiculous comedy Hot Tub Time Machine.  So I was excited to see this film but work kept me from seeing it opening weekend.  By the time I had time to see the film it was gone and I was like WTF?  So The Raven had disappeared and I with the attention span of a 6 month old had forgotten about the movie.   Fortunately there is the HBO network and it was on the other night and I was able to watch it finally.  While I liked the film I can see why it failed at the box office and most of the critics as well.

During the last days of his life Edgar Allan Poe, played by John Cusack (Hot Tub Time Machine,) is broke and trying to survive day to day life, his alcoholism, and the father of his love Emily, played by Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness.)  Poe is given a new reason to live when his poems become the inspiration of a serial killer in Baltimore.  Poe teams up with Detective Fields, played by Luke Evans (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smog,) to try and capture the man who not only is killing people but has kidnapped Emily and will leave her to die if Poe doesn’t solve the riddle of the killer.

Being a fan of detective type mysteries is one of the reasons why I like this film.  It is by no means a difficult mystery to solve but it is fascinating to watch it unfold.  But I like how Poe and Fields work together to solve the riddles one by one.  It would be easily described as a poor man’s Holmes and Watson.   I also enjoy the look and feel of the film.  I love the look of 1840’s Baltimore and how many times I had to remember that this wasn’t 1800’s London.  I don’t know what it is about the time that I like so much about it.  Maybe it’s the use of horses and gas lamps and the Victorian dresses the ladies wear.  We rarely see films of this time in US history that take place in the eastern part of the States.  Most of the 1800’s films are westerns or Civil War era and I would like to think that there are many stories to be told from 1800 to 1850 New York, Boston, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Anyway I liked that the time and location of the story because my lack of knowledge of the period helped in the overall story telling.

I mentioned earlier this entire film is basically a poor man’s Sherlock Holmes.  This is what I feel is the death of this movie.  Anyone who has seen the Robert Downey Jr films will look at this film and see the Holmes movies as the better film and not think much about telling people to see this one.  I don’t know if that is completely fair considering Holmes is a fictional detective and Poe is a writer of dark stories turned fictional detective.  But that is the direction the writer took and so that is the path that is logical to follow when watching this film.  I think the writer could have bailed himself out if he had made the story more about the Poe poems with detail.  Instead we only see them used as a rough outline with the exception of The Pit and the Pendulum.  The other murders have pieces of other of Poe’s works but did not dig deep into them.  I would have liked to see the movie story wrap itself around the Poe films similar to the way the movie Seven had the seven deadly sins so interwoven in the film.  The Raven doesn’t do this and I feel that this is the biggest failure in the film.  Not that this is a bad story, it just could have gone to a wonderful place if written properly and it wasn’t and instead we get an average film.

I do not know if I will own this movie on Blu-Ray or not.  Maybe if I can get it dirt cheap at a used store.  I like the movie enough to own but I if I get it I don’t know how many times I will watch the film.  This movie also appears to be somewhat of a career killer for John Cusack.  Mind you this would be the second time that happened to him.  Since this film I haven’t seen a single film of his that made it to the big screen and the two that did were both small films.  I worry that Cusack may be disappearing again and that would suck because I find him to be an enjoyable to watch.  Anyway, I say watch the film it is entertaining but should leave you wanting more.

 

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mortdecaiI was very hesitant in watching this film because I have yet to find a single positive review on it and both Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow were nominated for Razzies for their performances. I only had heard about this film recently as I have developed my obsession with Olivia Munn and saw a YouTube video of her and Conan O’Brien talk about it as she is there to plug the show which also explains why I watched this movie.  I went in with zero expectations with only a desire to see Olivia in the film and overall my expectations were met but I believe it is better than the reviews I have read and nowhere near the worst movie you see.

Mortdecai, played by Johnny Depp (Corpse Bride,) is a British art dealer sometimes art smuggler who has managed to get himself 8 million pounds (British for dollars) in debt.  Because of his shady connections he is asked by current MI-5 agent and old college rival Martland, played by Ewan McGregor (The Island,) to find an expensive piece of art that was stolen while it was being repaired.   On the hunt for the same piece of art is terrorist Emil, played by Jonny Pasvolsky (Macbeth,) Russian mobster Romanov, played by Ulrich Thomsen (The Thing,) fellow British dealer Sir Graham, played by Michael Culkin (The Iron Lady,) and American father daughter team of Krampf, played by Jeff Goldblum (Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,) and Georgina, played by Olivia Munn (Ride Along 2.)  Helping to try and keep Mortdecai out of danger is his man servant Jock, played by Paul Bettany (The Avengers: Age of Ultron,) and his lovely wife Johanna played by Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 2.)

So the first problem I can see is that I know that these are British characters but who decided that both Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow should have English accents?  Yeah I know British characters but the accents were horrible to the point that it was distracting.  Depp played his character as a wimpy vocal Mr. Bean and I’m not sure what Paltrow was doing but it didn’t work.  My curiosity is why cast these two when we have a whole Kingdom full of wonderful British actors and actresses who could have done that better.  I mean being Depp and Paltrow didn’t add anything to the rolls that was special so other than name recognition there was no need to have them in the movie.

It could be the writer to blame for the fact that large parts of the movie were unfunny.  Bits and pieces inspired me to smile and giggle but for the most part it was dry.  Although the story of the missing painting and the pursuit of that was fun and the scenes involving Bettany and his fights were entertaining.  I also like the whole Russian bit with Mortdecai, but those kinds of laughs were few and far between.  The movie did have one of my qualifiers for a good action movie in that the action took place in Europe even if it was mostly in doors.  There was a lot of comedy involved with the action so that made up for the lack of actual violence or car chase scenes, but not enough to make this a good movie.

My obligatory Olivia Munn report doesn’t have a whole lot to it.  She doesn’t show up until act 3 and there is absolutely nothing to character as written.  She has a hot but totally awkward dance scene with Johnny Depp that ends with his hand on her breast which made me jealous.  She ran around with a gun a couple of time so that added to her hot factor but there was just nothing to show whether or not she can act or not so I will continue to give her the benefit of the doubt.oliviamunnmortdecai

So as much as I have bagged on this movie, it’s not the worst movie you will ever see.  If it happens to be on HBO or you have a free rental at Redbox or Netflix gives you a freebee and you like any of these actors then get it.  I wouldn’t pay actual money for this movie like I did but it’s what I am will to do for my reviewing public.

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