Monthly Archives: April 2007

Up Next: Hercules and the Amazon Women

I tried to write the review for the second Lara Croft film and realized that I probably need to watch it again to get the review the way I want it. I just wasn’t up for watching the film again, after having seen it a month or so ago, and so I’ve shelved that review for the time being.
Instead, I watched Hercules and the Amazon Women, the full-length film that started the long-running television series. I’m aiming to have that review up by Tuesday.

Preview Impressions: Spiderman 3

spiderman3.jpgI caught the latest Spiderman 3 trailer today. I’m encouraged by this one. The first one I saw, a few months ago, seemed to have so much in it that I wondered how they would ever get all that stuff into one movie. Earlier trailers seemed almost too noisy, with too many villains and too much going on. This Spiderman 3 trailer seems more focused, and the story is much clearer.

While the action looks incredible as well, I still have concerns. Previous trailers showed a lot of the Sandman, but this one just has a brief glimpse. Did they reduce his part? How does he fit into the story? Previous trailers also had Peter Parker hospitalized. Does that still happen?

I greatly enjoyed the first two Spiderman movies. Because of that more than the trailers, I still feel like odds are good that Spiderman 3 will live up to expectations. My greatest concern is that they are trying to do too much in one movie.

Prediction: 75

Review: Pathfinder

pathfinder_cov.jpgYear: 2007
Director: Marcus Nispel
Starring: Karl Urban, Russell Means, Moon Bloodgood

Plot
An abandoned Viking boy grows up in a North American village, then fights against the Vikings when they return to slaughter more North Americans.

Comments
Vikings! I can’t remember the last time someone made a movie with Vikings. All that comes to my mind is an image of a young, grimacing Kirk Douglass. Oh, snap. I forgot about The 13th Warrior. Still, the essence of my point stands: We don’t get enough good Viking movies. And the Vikings in Pathfinder are impressive specimens, I tell you! They are massive, grunting, bloodthirsty, sword-wielding Vikings wrapped in furs, with horned helmets mashed onto their thick skulls. Booya! Well done, Pathfinder, well done!

In the other corner of the ring, we’ve got their opponents: peaceful Native American villagers, led by Ghost, who is none other than (drum roll, please) a benevolent Viking! As a boy, Ghost was whipped and abandoned in North America for refusing to kill a Native American baby during a raid. He grows up with the Native Americans and lives a life of semi-acceptance.

And now comes the plot dynamic: The Vikings return to North America to once again pillage and kill. pathfinder2.jpgThey start with Ghost’s village, which they wipe out, except of course for Ghost, who was away hunting. For the next hour plus, the movie rolls from one fight scene to the next, with Ghost inexorably battling a force of a hundred or so enemies. To be more exact, after some perfunctory background setting, Pathfinder is essentially one long string of action scenes.

This action—and the mood of the film as a whole—is stark, bleak, and brutal. Blood flies, eyes are sliced, and heads roll in muddy, bloody, and gritty combat. Quite a few of the scenes are set in snow, and they lend the movie a bare, blue-gray, and raw edge. Man is reduced to his essential core in this barren setting, and the combat reflects it.

If you’ve read to this point, you might think that I loved Pathfinder. Ha, I fooled you. Pathfinder bored me. I consistently found myself wondering how much longer. Pathfinder, despite some plusses as an action movie, simply gets too many things wrong.

In many ways, the general sloppiness of Pathfinder pulls it down into the muck. Scenes are slapped together more out of convenience than logic. Need a cave? Viola! Here’s a cave. Need a sled chase? Viola, here’s a snowy mountain! The entire movie jumps back and forth from snow to bare ground so often it makes your head spin. pathfinder1.jpgAt one point, Ghost and a young girl from the village leave the village together. They each go there own way, and a couple of minutes later Ghost is running in snow-covered mountains while the girl is running in a lush green forest. Huh? Where in North America would we ever have geography like this?

The action, despite deserving kudos for its grittiness, is in many ways quite sloppy. Too many scenes are shot too tight, in low light, and move so fast that it’s hard to see anything. And the Vikings, as well portrayed as they are, all look alike. It’s like trying to identify mastodons. One after another they die, but after about the tenth one, it all starts to look the same. It should also be mentioned that the Vikings deserve some Darwin Awards for the incredible stupidity they display in various scenes of the movie. I won’t spoil these for you, but let’s just string together these words and I bet you can figure out what happens in one scene: fat Vikings bunched together, heavy horses, lots of armor, thin ice. Didn’t the Vikings come from, um…snowy lands? Sigh.

The plot as well is more a beta version of a plot than a real story. Ghost’s struggle for identity is a non-factor, as it’s perfectly clear the entire movie who Ghost sides with. Even the title—Pathfinder, the Native American leader of his people who is supposed to tutor Ghost—is reduced to an afterthought in the movie. pathfinder5.jpgThe Pathfinder makes a mere comment or two to Ghost in the movie, hardly anything worthy of “tutoring,” not to mention naming the movie as such. Both of these elements might have benefited from a script, which I think the producers forgot. Seriously. You will have flashbacks to Conan the Barbarian every time Urban stares icily in response to a question (see the nearby photo!). I am certain this review is longer than the script.

This general lack of dialog makes it difficult on the actors, who all put forth lackluster performances. Well, actually, a couple of the mastodon Vikings grunted impressively, but I have no idea what their names may have been. For all I could tell them apart, they may well all have been the same person. Karl Urban, as Ghost, is unimpressive. His love interest, Moon Bloodgood, who has a major supporting role in the movie, is equally uninspiring. No one else jumps to mind as standing out in the acting department.

pathfinder4.jpgAs for our babes and hunks ratings, Pathfinder fails in this regards as well. Moon Bloodgood—who gets a few points for such an awesome name—is at times fair to look at, but mostly she’s wrapped up shapeless furs, and at times she looks quite plain. Karl Urban physically passes the bill, but struggles in the looks department as well. There isn’t much eye candy at all in this movie. Someday a producer will get it right and understand the importance of getting action movies out of snowy mountains and onto tropical islands.

To bring this to a close, Pathfinder deserves some kudos for its occasionally gritty and stylish portrayal of sword combat, and for some passable action scenes on the whole, but ultimately renders itself into a forgettable movie because of its extraordinary weaknesses.

Relevant Fact
The director, Marcus Nispel, also directed the 2003 movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Score
Pace: 75
Plot: 20
Action: 55
Consistent Premise: 43
Script/Quotes: 8
Characters: 40
Acting: 36
Villain: 63
Body Count: 80
Time to First Dead Body: Fast
Babes: 32
Hunks: 39
Explosions: 20
Special Effects: 53
Stunts: 48
Ending: 55

Overall: 39 (You’ll have more fun seeing 300 a second time)

Apologies…

Sorry that I haven’t written much in the past couple of weeks. I kept having optimistic views of my upcoming weeks, but life took a turn to the busy side over the past four weeks.

Now, however, taxes are done, travel is over for a while, my home office move is complete, and work has settled back down.

In short, I’ve got time again. I even watched a movie this weekend, for the first time in almost three weeks! I went to Pathfinder on Friday with a friend.

I hope to get back in the swing of things this week, and get back on track to posting my more usual two reviews per week. It’s been so long since I watched the second Lara Croft movie that I might need to watch that one again before I write the review, but I’m going to try and at least get Pathfinder up before Thursday.

Also, I’ve found a neat site that allows you to create spiffy polls and embed them in your blog, so I’ll be adding some interactivity to the blog in the upcoming posts.

Thanks for your patience, and again, sorry for the disappearance!