Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Robot Jox (1990)

Title: Robot Jox (1990)

Director: Stuart Gordon

Cast: Gary Graham, Ann Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo


Robot Jox is one of Stuart Gordon’s most expensive films, but don’t go thinking Robot Jox is a “big budget” movie, in fact it’s quite the opposite, for a movie about giant robots, Robot Jox’s budget is actually quite small. But that didn’t bother director Stuart Gordon, a director who’s always been accustomed to working with really low budgets. I mean here’s a director who’s used to making movies below the 1 million dollar mark. The amazing thing is that for working with shoestring budgets, he’s always made pretty cool movies, movies that have gone on to become cult favorites. For example, he did Re-Animator (1985) with a mere 900,000 and to this day Re-Animator is still considered one of the best zombie splatter fests ever. The ultra gory masterpiece called From Beyond (1986) only cost 4.5 million. Fortress (1992) a science fiction film about a futuristic underground penal colony that cost 8 million dollars to make, yet somehow managed to look better than Robot Jox which was made with 10 million! His budgets always went a little higher with each feature he made until he made the most expensive film in Gordon’s career; a science fiction film called Space Truckers (1996), a film about these space truckers who unbeknownst to them carry a deadly cargo on their space ship. Space Truckers was a pretty cool little sci-fi movie that hardly anybody saw. That one cost 25 million, the highest budget that Gordon ever worked with, yet strangely enough, it’s one of his lesser known films! So anyhow, with all the excitement surrounding Guillermo del Toro’s excellent giant robot movie PacificRim (2013), I thought it would be a good idea to revisit Gordon’s Robot Jox, a film that plays with many of the same ideas that Pacifi Rim plays with, but with a  far, far smaller budget.

 Robot Jox is all about a future in which war has been abolished and countries now settle their disputes by having giant robots kick the living shit out of each other. You’d think they go for a bigger budget when thinking about making a film about giant robots, but nope, they decided to do it anyway with just 10 million. As a basis for comparison, Michael Bay made Transformers (2007) for 150 million and Guillermo del Toro made Pacific Rim with 180 million!  Yet here’s Gordon, the miracle worker, making this big on ideas sci-fi movie with a mere 10 million. The problem with Robot Jox for me is that its low budget shows. Sets look half assed, miniatures look unconvincing, and the futuristic wardrobe looks like motorcycle driving gear. Why do they always do this in cheap sci-fi films? Got no money for some decent wardrobe? Hey, it’s okay! We can use football shoulder pads! We’ll make it look futuristic! Problem with that is that I always notice! Who wouldn't right? Are all those cables on their suits RCA cables they ripped out of some television set? Sure they are! All this adds an unexpected level of comedy to the whole film which some of you might enjoy.

Then again, ten million dollars is about the average budget of a Godzilla movie and Robot Jox definitely plays in the same ball park as a Godzilla movie. I mean, were talking about giant robots fighting each other here! And truth be told, the scenes with the giant robots fighting each other in the middle of an arena in the dessert are the best part of this film. The effects were achieved with a mixture of stop motion animation and traditional miniatures which gives the robots a tangible feel, your brain instantly recognizes these aren’t computer animated images, these guys made these miniatures and these puppets for real, which is something I always admire. The stop motion animation and the miniatures were done by Dave Allen, a guy who did a lot of stop motion animation work in z-level movies like all those Full Moon Pictures that were so popular during the 90’s. I’m talking about films like Doctor Mordrid (1992) and Subspecies (1991). Full Moon pictures we’re popular amongst genre fans during the 90’s because they were cheesy fun. They might’ve looked cheap, but they were also unabashedly geeky, these films displayed a genuine love for genre films. David Allen brought all his low budget know how to Robot Jox, his stop motion animation is a highlight of the film.

One of the big problems with this movie is the uneven tone. When studios think of a film about giant robots, their target audience is immediately children, this is the reason why Godzilla films always have ‘Godzuki’, which is like a baby Godzilla, a character deliberately placed in Godzilla films so the kiddies will have something to identify with. Well, at first glance Robot Jox feels like a kid’s film, but then it has many double entendre jokes, harsh language and even some nudity and sex. I hear the writer behind the film, Joe Haldeman, wanted a more serious, dramatic picture while Stuart Gordon was more interested in making it a cheesy, b-movie, akin to a Saturday morning cartoon, so I guess in the end this is why the movie ended up being uneven in nature. The cheesiest thing about the movie though is the dialog which always feels unnatural, in the end, the lines spoken in this picture will more than likely make you laugh all the way through the picture. I know I did! It’s one of those movies that’s funny because it’s bad. But basically, if you enjoy low budget cheesy films, then you are more than likely going to enjoy Robot Jox. I enjoy it because I have high tolerance for cheese, in fact, I love it!

A behind the scenes look at the crew working on the "giant robots"

Production wise this movie has a sad story because it’s the film that put an end to Empire Pictures which went bankrupt while making this movie. To give you an idea of the troubled path that Robot Jox had to go through to get released, the film was completed in 1987, but the whole thing with the bankruptcy held its release in theaters all the way back to 1990! At the time, this had been Empire Pictures most expensive movie yet! This film was certainly a risk for them, but I’m willing to bet it’s one they were willing to take because of the whole popularity with the Transformers cartoons. They thought they had a potential hit in their hands because of this! Unfortunately fate had other plans for it and so the film ended up being released in 1990, when the Transformers cartoon show had faded away. Empire Pictures was the company behind such low budget sci-fi/horror fare as Spellcaster (1988), Creepozoids (1987), Mutant Hunt (1987), Terrorvision (1986), Zone Troopers (1985), Trancers (1985), Ghoulies (1985), Troll (1986), Rawhead Rex (1986), and many of Gordon’s previous horror films like Dolls (1987), From Beyond (1986) and Re-Animator (1985). Basically, if it was the mid eighties and it was low budget direct to video horror/science fiction, these guys were behind it. Sadly, Robot Jox brought all that to an end; I guess they bit more than they could chew. Too bad because I actually liked all those cheesy low budget movies they helped produce and distribute during the 80’s, they were cheap low brow fun, I still find myself revisiting many of their films.

One giant step for humanity! 

Personally, I enjoy Robot Jox because it’s a film I’ve been watching since it was first made, and at the time, these kinds of films were a rarity. True, there were cartoons about giant robots, but nobody was making motion pictures about giant robot like this one. There were no films like Transformers (2007) or Pacific Rim (2013), so I guess in its own small way, Robot Jox was a pioneer in American science fiction cinema. Strangely enough, it was the Transformers cartoon show which inspired Stuart Gordon to make this film, Gordon’s intention was to capitalize on the success of the cartoon show, unfortunately, by the time Robot Jox was released in theaters the popularity of the cartoon show had faded and so, the film tanked. It did poorly in theaters and received bad reviews, but it later garnered cult following and found its audience on home video, I know that’s where I discovered it. It was followed by a series of films that were sometimes marketed as sequels to Robot Jox, but in reality weren’t. These films were Crash and Burn (1990), which actually borrowed its title from a line from Robot Jox and then there was Robot Wars (1993). I never saw either of these, but I’ll see if I can my hands on them for review. Bottom line with Robot Jox is that it’s not a terrible film, it has its entertaining moments, especially those robot fights that while dated when compared to films like Pacific Rim, are still fun to watch in my book.

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5

Crash and Burn!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pacific Rim (2013)

Title: Pacific Rim (2013)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Idris Elba, Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi

Pacific Rim is the most fun I’ve had this summer so far, I mean, this 2013 summer season has been incredibly good, with big, loud, bombastic pop corn movies and it’s not easy narrowing it down to “most fun had this summer” but dammit, I had such a blast last night watching Pacific Rim that I officially declare it the most fun summer movie of 2013! And without a doubt, this is the best giant robot movie I’ve ever seen! Giant robot movies are not easy films to make because they will always involve either miniature effects work or lots of computer effects, in other words, these type of movies always require big budgets, if you don't have the money to pull off this kind of film and make it anyway, then you might end up with a goofy film like Stuart Gordon's Robot Jox (1990), which was one of the first attempts to bring a giant robot movie to the silver screen; by americans anyway. The results with Robot Jox or it's "sequel" Robot Wars (1993) were laughable at best. Then we have the Transformers movies, that while having the budget, didn't necesarilly have the best talent behind the camera. Which reminds me that as I watched this movie, a mental image of Michael Bay (the director behind the Transformers movies) furiously taking notes kept popping into my head. Yes sir ladies and gentlemen, with Pacific Rim Guillermo del Toro has just given Michael Bay an explosive class on how to make a giant robot movie work. So, what exactly made Pacific Rim such an entertaining ride?

In Pacific Rim there’s no time for building up a back story to nothing, we are thrown right smack into the middle of a world in which giant monsters are beginning to emerge from the depths of the ocean, scene one take one, giant monsters destroying the San Francisco Bridge. At first humans think that these giant monsters popping out of the ocean is something temporary, that these monsters will just go away, but soon they realize that these monsters just won’t stop coming, so the governments of the world join and create the “Jaeger” robots. These are robots gigantic in size that use different weapons to destroy the giant monsters, which by the way are referred to as ‘Kaiju’, a Japanese word that translates to ‘monster’. So the humans get all cocky because they are beating the monsters with their giant machines. But that cockiness soon fades away when even bigger monsters start to emerge from the depths of the ocean! Soon the Jaeger robots are considered a waste of money because too many millions are being lost, and too many fighters have died. The battle against the monsters is being lost! Can the dwindling Jaeger program go up against these giant creatures? And just what is it that these creatures are hoping to achieve by laying waste to our world?

Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toro biggest movie to date, he’s worked with medium sized budgets before, for example Hellboy II (2008) cost 80 million dollars, which is the highest budget he’d worked with up to that point, but now Del Toro’s gone over the 100 million dollar mark with Pacific Rim which cost a whopping 170 million dollars! But trust me, you’ll see all that money up on the screen, this is certainly NOT one of those movies that costs 300 million dollars and you don’t see the money on the screen, nope here you’ re gonna see them, and you’re gonna be impressed. Seriously though, the effects work on this movie is simply amazing, the scope of the ideas is way bigger than any other Guillermo del Toro movie. This is the kind of director who has a lot of imagination. Right from the start of his career Guillermo del Toro has demonstrated that he is a director with true admiration and devotion to the sci-fi/horror genres. You can tell that all you need to do if you are producer is give this guy a couple of millions and he’ll bring his imagination to life on the silver screen for you, which is exactly what happened here; Pacific Rim was a project brought forth by the guys at Legendary Pictures. They searched out Guillermo del Toro to work on this project, and Guillermo del Toro made it his own. He took the script, re-worked it to his liking and placed his sci-fi loving stamp on the project. I’m so glad that it was Del Toro who ended up directing, this movie might have turned out to be a lesser film had he not been involved.

Comparisons to other films are inevitable, for example, many of you will immediately associate it with Transformers, but honestly, this movie blows all Transformers movies out of the water. The effects work alone surpasses anything that Michael Bay might have conjured up with his 200 million dollar films like Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (2009). I give credit to Del Toro for making a far better movie with less money. For example, a great thing about Pacific Rim is that the giant robots look way more realistic, they don’t look like CGI creations, they look truly gigantic, truly massive in dimensions. And of course, I couldn’t help thinking of Godzilla films when watching this, because in all honesty, what is Pacific Rim if not Guillermo del Toro making his own Godzilla film? It’s true, I mean, to me, this is Guillermo saying okay, I’m not making a Godzilla film, but I am? I mean, the premise is the same you’d find in a Godzilla movie. Let’s see, giant monsters coming out of the depths of the oceans? Check! Humans creating robots to fight these giant monsters? Check! Human drama in the midst of it all? Check! If I had to compare this one to any of the Godzilla films, it would have to be to Godzilla AgainstMechagodzilla (2002) and Godzilla Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) which by the way are two of my favorite Godzilla films ever.  On these two films the humans create a mechanical version of Godzilla to fight against the real Godzilla. The whole thing with humans driving Mechagodzilla is similar in nature to what we see in Pacific Rim. Plus, that whole element of monsters destroying buildings that is such a trademark in Godzilla films is very evident here. So what I’m saying is that any lover of Godzilla films or Kaiju films in general should be extremely happy with this film. For all intents and purposes, Pacific Rim is the biggest, most expensive and overall best ‘Kaiju’ movie ever made, and you can quote me on that one!  

Guillermo del Toro is such a massive genre fan, that when he does a film, well, you can see he loves many of the things us geek boys love, and he gives us exactly what we want. For example, there’s this scene that seems to have come straight out of a Voltron cartoon! Anybody here remember that 80’s cartoon? Most of the episodes ended with a giant robot fighting monsters in space? He always cut the monsters in half with his ‘blazing sword’? Well, you’ll see something on this movie that will bring all those Voltron memories rushing right back into your brain! It also brought memories of Mazinger Z, but I’m probably talking gibberish to most of you out there now. Also, In terms of monster mayhem and destruction, this one delivers. So this movie gets an “A” on the massive destruction of public property department, but what of the human drama? This is something that is always taken in consideration when watching a Godzilla movie. We all love the monsters and the destruction, but what of the human side of the story? Sometimes in a Godzilla film the human side of the story will blow chunks and sometimes it’s quite good, the best Godzilla movies are those that deliver on both grounds. Well, I'm happy to say that Pacific Rim delivers on both grounds as far as I’m concerned. The whole thing with the Jaeger pilots connecting their brains in order to drive these robots was such a great idea! They have to share their minds and memories in order to be able to join their brains to drive these gigantic robots! So there’s this whole psychological side to the film because these pilots don’t just drive these things, they have to get inside each other’s heads! Now that’s a pretty cool concept because not only do they have to drive these robots and fight these monsters, they also gotta do battle with their own demons.

It seems I can’t stop gushing over this movie, but what can I say, I truly loved it. It’s the kind of summer film that you immediately feel the urge to see again. Word of advice though, do not see it 3-D. The 3-D was a post conversion which means that it wasn’t originally filmed with 3-D cameras; the studio converted it into a 3-D film after they made the movie, so the resulting film won’t truly be 3-D. Since most of the film takes place during the night and in the middle of a storm, I’ve read some reviewers state that the 3-D actually hinders your full enjoyment of the film because as some of you might now, 3D glasses actually makes the images darker. So my advice is watch Pacific Rim in 2-D, the film does not look any less spectacular in regular 2-D, in fact, it might actually look better. Guillermo del Toro was against the 3-D conversion thing from the get go, but you know how studios are when an opportunity to make extra cash comes along. Can’t blame them, they need to make their money back and I hope they do because I wouldn’t mind seeing another one of these. I was happy to see Guillermo del Toro making such a huge summer blockbuster, really proud to see this director come full circle, he has truly bloomed into a class A director and I applaud him for that. Now go see Pacific Rim, if movies where a drug, then Pacific Rim is crack for the eyes! Pure entertainment, you won’t be disappointed! My only question is: how is director Gareth Edwards, the director currently filming the second American Godzilla film, going to top what Guillermo Del Toro has done here?

Rating: 5 out of 5  

Idris Elba (left) and Guillermo del Toro (right) talk out a scene on the set of Pacific Rim 

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Phantom (1996)

Title: The Phantom (1996)

Director: Simon Wincer

Cast: Billy Zane, Treat Williams, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Remar, Kristy Swanson

My introduction to the Lee Falk’s The Phantom was by way of a cartoon show from the 80’s called Defenders of the Earth; boy I was a fan of that show! It united Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician (another one of Falk’s creations) and The Phantom in a show that turned them into a team of super heroes who in every episode would go up against Ming the Merciless in his attempt to conquer the earth. Back then I must have been about 11 or 12 years old but little did I know that The Phantom had such a legacy as a character! Here’s a character that started way back in the 1930’s as a syndicated comic strip. It has gone on to appear in all sorts of media outlets including films, cartoons, video games, comic books and novels. Sad part about the character is that even though Lee Falk constantly made efforts to get the character out there to the public, for some reason modern audiences never connected  with the character, which is probably the reason why the film made back ’96 flopped in such a big way.

After the mega success of Batman (1989) and its sequel Batman Returns (1992) all the major studios were looking for a way to duplicate the success of those films and so suddenly, comic book films where the hot ticket. Before Burton’s Batman, big budget comic book films were a rarity. Yes my friends, there was a time when comic book lovers were starving for superhero films! We earned for worthy adaptations of our favorite comic book characters. A glimpse of light showed itself on the horizon when Burton’s bat films made it so big. After Batman comic book fans got least one big budget comic book movie every summer. The problem was that most studios didn’t go for modern comic book characters, for some reason they opted to go with old comic book heroes, like The Rocketeer (1991), The Shadow (1994) and the film I’ll be reviewing today, The Phantom (1996). I guess studios wanted to go the safe route by making films of these established characters. No matter how old they were, studios thought movies based on these characters would make huge bank at the box office because they were classic super heroes. But boy were they wrong! Studios didn’t know it back then, but people didn’t want to see super heroes from the 30’s, they wanted to see modern day super heroes brought to life. The disappointing box office success of these three super hero films based on old characters taught film studios that what people wanted was something else, something modern. It was 20th Century Fox who finally went the right way and did a film based on Marvel comics X-Men (1999). Comic book movies haven’t stopped since, the new age of comic book films was born. But it seems studios haven’t learned their lesson entirely, cause they’ve just gone and spent 200 million dollars in making The Lone Ranger (2013), which has immediately lost a ton of money at the box office and is poised to become this year’s runaway turkey.

The Phantom, next to his horse 'Hero'

But what of The Phantom? Why did it flop? Aside from it being an old comic book character? Well, to be honest, the film isn’t all that exciting. I mean, be it old or new, what really matters at the end of the day is if the film is worth a damn, if it entertains. So doe it? Well, in my book it half way does. For me the film never truly takes off. Even though it was written by Jeffrey Boam; the guy who wrote Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989), The Phantom still managed to be boring and flat. Even the fights were filmed in a boring way! Here I was watching the climactic fight between the good guy and the bad guy and I was like, that’s it, this is the best they could muster? The film isn’t impressive enough. I mean, I did appreciate the way the film tried to convey this feeling of old adventure films, of the old cliffhangers from the 50’s. Hidden caves, hidden treasures, good guys chasing bad guys while riding horses, the hero jumping off planes, pirates, swords…cool ideas, my only problem is in the execution, it all amounts to a boring film, which is a sad thing to be if you’re a superhero film.

Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was how many elements were ripped off from the Indiana Jones films. I mean, okay, you got the same guy who wrote Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to write this, but damn the similarities are so many that you almost feel like you are watching the Indiana Jones films all over again. Let’s see, the whole film is about these three magical skulls, kind of like those three magical stones from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)? When they get together they are all powerful? Been there seen that. They have this scene where the bad guys unite the three magical skulls and laser lights come out of the skulls eyes and the lasers point out a spot on the map that shows the bad guys where they need to go to get the third skull….which instantly reminded me of a similar scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) in which Indy does the same exact thing. There this scene in which The Phantom jumps off a plane with his girl and the plane crashes on a mountain, a scene plays out in the same exact fashion in Temple of Doom, even the shots are similar! Even the opening of the film takes place in an old bridge, same as that old bridge that Indy dangles from in Temple of Doom, so yeah, the filmmakers behind The Phantom used the Indiana Jones films as a blue print. Unfortunately, they were unable to duplicate the excitement behind those films.

On the positive side of things, the film does scream Saturday Morning Matinee, and it does manage to have that old fashion sense of adventure to it, and come on, let’s face it, that cheesy, cliffhanger stuff is cool if you’re a genre fan. The overall vibe is fun and nutty, and when we take in consideration Treat Williams performance as the villain ‘Xander Drax’, the film is also over the top, not meant to be taken seriously at all. This is not a serious or close to reality take on a super hero like The Dark Knight (2008), in fact, this is the complete opposite, pure ridiculousness. In fact, the writer of the film, Jeffrey Boam, wrote his original script as a spoof. Unfortunately, the director didn’t go with the funny vibe, he tried playing it straight. Still, you can see glimpses of the comedic elements that Boam put into the script. I mean, we are talking about a guy wearing a purple skin tight suit while swinging from tree vines in the middle of the African jungle! In fact when I think about it, this film has a lot in common with the Batman television show from the 60’s! You almost expect a WHAM! to appear on the screen when The Phantom punches a bad guy. So I guess if you go in expecting pulpy, over the top, campiness, then you should have a better time watching this, but still, there are many things that hinder the enjoyment of the flick, for example, the sets are so obviously sets! They didn’t even try to make them look realistic. The ending of the film, which takes place inside of a cave is so obviously a sound stage it’s not even funny! The whole thing looks so cheap.

Many directors were interested in bringing The Phantom to the big screen. At one point, even Sergio Leone himself expressed interest in directing the film! He even wanted to follow it up with a Mandrake the Magician film! Can you imagine that? The Phantom directed by Sergio Leone? Damn, that sounds cool just reading it! Joe Dante and Joel Schumacher were also at one time going to direct, but the project eventually fell on the hands of Simon Wincer, the director behind D.A.R.Y.L. (1985), Free Willy (1993) and Operation Dumbo Drop (1995). If you ask me, any of the previous directors that came before him would have made a better film. The studio had wanted to make this film since the late eighties and early nineties, but various factors stumped the production. One of the reasons why the project came to a screeching halt was The Shadow, which ended up being an abysmal failure, so suddenly, comic book films based on characters from the 1930's didn't seem like such a good idea. Still, the project pushed on and we got The Phantom, which while not the worst comic book movie ever made, leaves a lot to be desired. Still, the film does have a good performance from Billy Zane as The Phantom. He actually pumped iron for more than a year so he could get all beefed up for the part. He didn’t want to use fake muscles like other superhero films. But then again the mind wonders: what would Bruce Campbell have looked like playing The Phantom? That’s right my friends he was up for the part! So was Dolph Lungdren! Instead we got Billy Zane, a lifelong fan of The Phantom. So in the end, I’d say that The Phantom is still a fun watch, just go in with low expectations and you just might have some fun.

Rating: 3 out of 5   

Lee Falk and Billy Zane

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kon-Tiki (2013)

Title: Kon-Tiki (2012)

Directors: Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg

Cast: Pal Sverre Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Tobias Santelmann, Gustaf Skarsgard, Jakob Oftebro, Agnes Kittelsen, Odd Magnus Williamson


Kon-Tiki is the real life story of a Norwegian adventurer named Thor Heyerdahl who in 1947 was hell bent on undertaking an expedition across the Pacific Ocean. But this wasn’t just any old expedition Heyerdahl wanted to put together, nope, Heyerdahl wanted to go on a wood raft across the Pacific Ocean. He wanted the raft to be constructed with the materials that people had in the past, nothing modern, just basil wood and rope. He wanted to prove that in the past, man could have traveled long distances on rafts made of wood. Heyerdahl wanted to prove that these long treks could have taken place and that technological limitations didn’t stop people of the past from achieving these journeys. Basically, he was kind of like a Jacques Cousteau, the famous biologist/adventurer; actually, Cousteau and Heyerdahl were contemporaries. I admire guys like these, I mean; they give up a normal life to live extraordinary ones. Their lives were filled with real life adventure; which is probably why the tagline for this movie is “Real Adventure Has No Limits”.

So yeah, this is one of those “based on real life events” type of films, even though from looking at the trailers, you might get the idea that it’s some sort of fantasy. And speaking of fantasy, the film has some similarities with a couple of movies out there, but the most blaringly obvious one is Life of Pi (2012). Both films are about people traveling on a raft through the perilous, unpredictable ocean. On both films the travelers meet beautiful marine life, gigantic whales, sharks, glowing sea creatures, flying fish. Both films also explore the validity of faith, of believing in what we can’t see. While Life of Pi preaches about the Christian concept of God, Kon-Tiki has a character fiercely believing in ‘Tiki’, a Polynesian God. At one point this belief in ‘Tiki’ is questioned when a character tells Heyerdahl “nobody believes in your Tiki story” to which Heyerdahl replies “Then why are you here?”  So Kon-Tiki has various levels of similarity with Life of Pi, the difference is that while Life of Pi is more of a fantasy film, Kon-Tiki happened for real. These crazy guys really did take this journey through the Pacific on a raft they built themselves. The film also had some similarities with a film I love very much called Joe Versus theVolcano (1990), a film in which Tom Hanks also embarks on a journey through the ocean on a small raft. Joe Versus the Volcano is a film that gets quite existential, it also touches upon the idea of god. At one point Joe actually looks up at the heavens, talking to a God whose name he does not know and thanking whoever that being might be. What is it with films about people taking perilous journeys on rafts and the theme of God? It might have something to do with pitting man vs. nature; nature on these films being the closest thing to God an idea that pops up in all three of these films, the idea that nature and life are so grand that they are worthy of our worship.

In Kon-Tiki, the part of the story that amazed me the most is the one about these guys building this raft all on their own and deciding to just do it. I mean, this took guts because they wanted to make the journey sans anything modern, save for a radio to communicate with in case of emergencies. Heyerdahl even tried looking for funding through National Geographic magazine, a help which the magazine denied because Heyerdahl’s journey seemed downright suicidal to them. Which made sense to me in a way, I mean, when the journey begins, you feel as if these guys are so green, they really don’t know much about traveling through the ocean, much less on a wood raft. You kind of get the feeling that the sea is going to give them a good whoopin’. But what they lacked in experience, they made up with sheer adventurous spirit. And a grand adventure it was, the film portrays all their adventures, their fights with sharks, whales, the weather and themselves. Those scenes where the men interact with nature bring up some of the most spectacular moments in the film, my favorite being their encounter with a whale, such an awesome scene. It reminded me a bit of that elusive mythical fish in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), yet another film about a group of adventurous men in the sea.

Thor Hayerdahl wrote about his experiences and printed them in a book called The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft across the South Seas. He also took Cousteau’s example and filmed the whole expedition with hopes of turning the footage into a documentary, which ended becoming a documentary called Kon-Tiki (1950). By the way, that documentary won an Oscar in 1951! Heyerdahl continued doing expeditions after this one, there’s actually a whole museum dedicated to all of his journeys where you can see all the different rafts he made for these different journeys. The guy dedicated himself to a life of adventure and exploration, so much so that he sacrificed his family life and this is something that the movie addresses a bit, how his journeys destroyed his marriage. This is a concept that’s been played out in films about people who are so devoted to achieving a certain goal, that they opt to sacrifice everything, marriage, love and even family life. These are people that feel that what they are doing is bigger than themselves, so they pay the price. At the end of the day I thought the film was very motivational, it also reminded me of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (1982), yet another film about a determined dude in a boat going against all odds. Final words on this film is that even though it is a really beautiful film to look at and one with some amazing moments in it, it needed maybe a little more conflict, a little more intensity in its plot; but aside from that, I personally really dug this movie. The Norwegian directors of this film, Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg did such a swell job with this movie that they are now directing the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film, looking forward to that, it will be interesting to see what kind of feel they can add to that franchise. Bottom line is, if you love nature, need to be inspired and have an adventurous spirit, this one comes highly recommended.  

Rating: 4 out of 5 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Memorable Movie Quotes from the 90's

Film: The Mask (1994)
Quote: "Somebody stop me!" 

Film: Clerks (1994)
Quote: "Im not even supposed to be here today!"

Film: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1994) 
Quote: "Did you see what God just did to us man?"

Film: Toy Story (1995)
Quote: "To infinity and Beyond!"

Film: Babe (1995)
Quote: "That'll do Pig, that'll do!"

Film: Braveheart (1995)
Quote: "They can take away our lives, but they'll never take away our freedom!"

Film: Apollo 13 (1995)
Quote: "Houston, we have a problem!"

Film: Schindler's List (1993)
Quote: "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire" 

Film: Ed Wood (1994)
Quote: "This is the one, this is the one I'll be remembered for!"

Film: Titanic (1997)
Quote: "I'm the King of the World!"

Title: The Mask (1994)
Quote: "Smokin'!" 

Title: Forrest Gump (1994)
Quote: "My momma always said life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get"

Title: Army of Darkness (1992)
Quote: "First you wanna kill me, now you wanna kiss me. Blow!"

Film: The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 
Quotes: "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti"

Film: Pulp Fiction (1994)
Quote: "And you will know that my name is The Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon thee!"

Film: The Usual Suspects (1995)
Quote: "Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze"

Film: A Few Good Men (1992)
Quote: "The truth? You can't handle the truth!"

Film: Ghost (1990)
Quote: "Molly, you in danger girl!"

Film: The Sixth Sense (1999)
Quote: "I see dead people"

Film: Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Quote: "It's not a tumor!" 

Film: Fight Club (1999)
Quote: "I want you to hit me as hard as you can" 

Film: Jerry Maguire (1996)
Quote: "Show me the money!" 

Film: The Matrix (1999)
Quote: "It is the question that drives us Neo"

Film: As Good As It Gets (1997)
Quote: "You make me want to be a better man"

Film: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1992)
Quote: "Hasta La Vista Baby!"

Film: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Quote: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering"  

Film: Unforgiven (1992)
Quote: "It's a hell of a thing killing a man"

Film: Waynes World (1992)
Quote: "A sphyncter says what?"

Film: Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Quote: "Ramblers, let's get rambling!" 

Film: The Big Lebowski (1998)

Quote: "I am the dude, so thats what you call me. You know, uh, that or uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or uh, you know, El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing"


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