Category Archives: Adventure

#274 Apocalypto

(2006, Mel Gibson)

Fun fact: Sometime in January 2013, I realised how appropriate Apocalypto, with all its Mayan prophecies of apocalypse, would have been for December 21st 2012, the supposed end-of-the-world date based on the Mayan calendar. Of course, this would have been more useful figuring that out before that date, but I guess we can’t have everything. So, after dumping it back in the general pile again, I finally pull it out to offer my opinion.

The good news is, I have an interest in ancient civilisations. The bad news is, I think director Mel Gibson is a bit of a terrible human being. This presents a problem, which led me to wonder exactly how I would feel about Apocalypto.

Set in Guatemala prior to the arrival of the Spanish, Apocalypto follows a young man named Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) as his village is attacked by a bloodthirsty rival tribe. Kidnapped and lined up for human sacrifice, Jaguar Paw seeks to save his family, trapped in a deep pit, while the rival tribe hear a prophecy that their civilisation is doomed. If you know your Central American history, you’ll know how true that prophecy turns out to be.

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#270 Planet Of The Apes

(1968, Franklin J. Schaffner)

“Take your stinking paws off me you damned dirty ape!”

Imagine if you will, a strange planet far beyond the stars where evolution did something very silly and made apes the dominant species instead of humans. Now imagine your reaction when you discover that planet WAS EARTH ALL ALONG! Yes, today we’re looking at Planet Of The Apes, with one of the most-spoiled endings of all time. It’s even on the cover of the DVD box these days! But even with the ending spoiled, how is it? Is it still good?

A group of astronauts led by George Taylor (Charlton Heston) set off on a long mission to the far reaches of space, climbing into hibernation while the ship steers them to a distant planet. When they wake up, they find themselves on a desolate world. After wandering through the desert, the astronauts are all captured by strange ape men, who view Taylor with great curiosity. Taylor must now figure out how to survive in this strange new world WHERE APES EVOLVED FROM MEN?!?!

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#264 Thelma & Louise

(1991, Ridley Scott)
“You’ve always been crazy, this is just the first chance you’ve had to express yourself”

Feminism in film is often a thorny topic, one that centres on representation of women in cinema. Far too often, movies put men front and centre, leaving women to be side characters or leads in fluffy romantic movies only. It’s rare for women to be put front and centre in more demanding roles, and that’s before we even see some of the struggles women face and are still trying to deal with via feminism. But in 1991, Ridley Scott had a go at tackling the subject with Thelma & Louise.

In Arkansas, Thelma (Geena Davis) lives with an overbearing husband, causing her to be passive and withdrawn. Her best friend, Louise (Susan Sarandon), is much tougher and self-assured. Louise suggests a weekend away, and Thelma escapes and goes along. However, before their weekend can truly begin, Thelma is almost raped by a man at a bar. Louise saves her by shooting and killing him, leading the duo to go on the run to escape the consequences of this action.

Thelma & Louise is a sometimes-difficult movie to watch, from the uncomfortable rape scene to the realisation that Thelma’s naivety gets the duo into more trouble than it should. The rape scene does need to be mentioned, especially because of how unpleasant it is. I personally find rape one of the most reprehensible things a person can do, so I was not having a good time with that scene. Which I suppose means it did its job. But beneath all this difficulty is a very strong movie about friendship.

And what a friendship. Thelma and Louise are two very different characters that manage to bounce off each other incredibly well. Despite their vast differences, these two are believable as friends. It’s hard to say exactly what it is, but they do have excellent on-screen chemistry and it’s easy to see why Louise still sticks by her buddy despite the worst things that happen to them.

Both characters are also hugely sympathetic. Thelma is alarmingly ditzy at times, but her naivety has a degree of innocence to it, almost as if being with her controlling husband has reduced her to this state, especially with her increasingly coming out of her shell as the movie progresses. Louise is harder and sterner, but there’s a genuine affection for her friend, and the permanent sense that she’s been hardened through trauma. Both women are excellent characters played perfectly, and that was the main thing this movie needed to get right.

Performances are also excellent from the supporting cast. Brad Pitt is charming and sleazy in equal measure, Harvey Kietel is surprisingly sympathetic in his role as a “villain” and it’s hard to not feel sorry for Michael Madsen’s character for getting wrapped up in something he doesn’t know all the details of, but supporting Louise all the same.

The movie has had accusations of being “man-hating” and “anti-men”, and while certainly Thelma’s would-be rapist, Thelma’s husband and Brad Pitt (basically all men Thelma directly has to deal with, funnily enough) are all absolute shits, Kietel and Madsen are played sympathetically, which is especially odd with both of them famously playing amoral jewel thieves only a year later in Reservoir Dogs. There’s a balance between awful men and reasonably OK men. It’s just that everyone in this movie is a deeply flawed character, so it probably just seems that all the men are portrayed in a bad light. The heroines don’t get off much easier, after all. And in a world where everyone’s an asshole, isn’t that true equality?

The movie isn’t perfect. Some of the plot points are a tad melodramatic, and the increasingly extreme problems the duo face can get a little silly. In addition, Thelma’s naivety can get a little grating, even going as far as deciding that being on the run is the perfect time to get some sexin’ from a random man who openly admits to being a thief. This section of the movie also slows the pace a little too much in the context of everything else. But oddly, everything holds together well on the characterisation alone.

So, basically, the flaws are pretty minor. Thelma & Louise is ultimately an excellent movie about friendship, feminism and felonies, and I highly recommend it.

Starring Geena Davis & Susan Sarandon
Written by Callie Khouri
Produced by Mimi Polk Gitlin & Ridley Scott
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography by Adrian Biddle
Edited by Thom Noble

Favourite Scene: Thelma pointing a gun at a police officer was pretty damn badass, it has to be said
Scene That Bugged Me: Seriously, now is not the best time to have sex with Brad Pitt!

Watch it if: You like road movies, revenge movies or movies about genuine female friendship
Avoid it if: You’re expecting a happy ending

#251 The Adventures Of Robin Hood

(1938, Michael Curtiz & William Keighley)

“It’s injustice I hate, not the Normans”

Robin Hood is a great British legend, putting the city of Nottingham on the map before it became the mugging capital of Europe. Many interpretations of the Robin Hood legend have been committed to film over the years, from Russell Crowe’s moody portrayal to the glitzy Hollywood sheen of Prince Of Thieves to Disney’s 1950s anthropomorphic adventure.

But only one of these made it onto the Movies You Must See list – the original movie that cemented Errol Flynn’s star status, The Adventures Of Robin Hood.

The movie follows the basic structure of the Robin Hood legend. King Richard The Lionheart is busy fighting off the Assassin Order in the Crusades, leading his evil brother Prince John to claim the throne in his absence. The Earl of Loxley, a man named Robin (Flynn), doesn’t take kindly to John’s crippling taxes on the Saxon people and vows to fight back, forming a team of bandits in the forest to lead a revolution against the false king, while simultaneously trying to get into the britches of the fair Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland).

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#249 The Host

(2006, Bong Joon-ho)

It is lurking behind you

I seem to have a good relationship with Korean cinema. So far I’ve enjoyed 100% of the movies that I’ve seen that came out of South Korea. Admittedly, that’s been exactly two movies so far, but that’s still a good track record. Will The Host keep up this record or will it break that streak?

Thankfully unrelated to the Stephanie Meyer novel of the same name, The Host starts with an American scientist dumping formaldehyde into the Han River. Six years later, a sleepy and somewhat slow-witted man named Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) is working on his father’s snack bar when a strange creature emerges from the river and causes chaos. His daughter, Hyun-seo (Go Ah-Sung), is captured by the creature, leading everyone to believe her to be dead.

However, Gang-du receives a phone call while under a quarantine ordered by the US Army, seemingly from Hyun-seo. He decides to break out of quarantine and find his daughter with the assistance of his father, Hee-Bong (Byun Hee-Bong), his medal-winning archer sister, Nam-joo (Bae Doona), and his alcoholic brother, Nam-il (Park Hae-il).

At its heart, The Host is a monster movie, putting an unsuspecting populace face to face with a terrible monster that terrorises their livelihood. But aside from that, it’s also a black comedy mixed in with political commentary. It’s also not quite as good as The Good, The Bad, The Weird or Oldboy.

But it’s a close one. There are issues with The Host, but many of them are fairly minor. I did have a bit of an issue with how early the monster is shown, something that seemed to take a great sense of mystery out of the movie. I like my movie monsters to be gradually revealed over time, but this one cropped up straight away and in broad daylight. It felt a little disappointing to see it so clearly so soon.

I also felt the anti-American political commentary was a little heavy-handed. Pretty much every action performed by an American within the plot was horrendously callous and destructive, and the movie seemed to go to great lengths to make the Westerners look absolutely awful across the board. There’s even an American doctor portrayed with cross-eyes just to make him look stupid. It does get a little tiring quite often.

The movie can also feel a little meandering at times, leaping from event to event as it tries to cram a bunch of ideas in. There were times when I felt a little bit lost and wanted the movie to pace itself a little better.

However, these issues failed to get in the way of making the movie highly entertaining. The movie is loaded with comedy throughout the whole thing, largely through the slow-witted protagonist, drunk brother and hesitant sister (who, it must be said, ultimately turns out to be a pretty badass archer). Just like other Korean movies I’ve reviewed on here, comedy turns up in unlikely places, and quite often you’ll find yourself bouncing between horrified and amused without warning.

The monster effects are also pretty phenomenal. The designers chose to keep the monster as close to a mutated fish creature as possible, and it actually feels like a plausible creature when it’s not doing crazy acrobatics. But even then, the acrobatics are exciting to watch, and pretty scary at times. It’s easy to forgive seeing the monster so much when it looks this good.

The Host also manages to be tense and exciting even despite the lack of mystery over the monster. It does this by cleverly matching up the mystery of what the creature actually does with the horrific actions of the Americans, with the release of an unpleasant chemical agent onto the populace being one of the more uncomfortable parts of the movie, in a good way.

All in all, The Host is flawed, but still manages to keep up a 100% approval rating for Korean cinema in my eyes, and that’s what really matters here.

Starring Song Kang-Ho, Byun Hee-Bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona & Go Ah-Sung
Written by Baek Chul-hyun & Bong Joon-Ho
Produced by Choi Yong-bae
Music by Lee Byung-Woo
Cinematography by Kim Hyung-Ku
Edited by Kim Sun-Min

Favourite Scene: Nam-joo making up for her earlier hesitance by shooting a flaming arrow right in the creature’s face? Yes!
Scene That Bugged Me: Did we really need the cross-eyed scientist?

Watch it if: You’re a fan of Korean cinema and/or monster movies
Avoid it if: You’re bored of anti-American messages

#220 Captain Blood

(1935, Michael Curtiz)

“Desperate men, we go to seek a desperate fortune”

YARR! It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day and we be celebratin’ today with a motion picture about the greatest scurvy dogs on the seven seas. We be lookin’ at Captain Blood and decidin’ whether or not he should be walking the plank.

Captain Blood be the name of the main character, a doctor in ol’ England named Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) who gets sent to Port Royal on the word of that land lubber King James. He be sold as a slave to a wench named Arabella Bishop (Olivia de Havilland), and forced to serve her uncle, Colonel Bishop (Lionel Atwill). But he be a fightin’ man, and he escapes with a motley crew and begins a life of piracy. YARRRRR!

When me and me crew first started watching Captain Blood we be disappointed by the lack of piracy. It were a lotta people talkin’ in big words that we uneducated swabs don’t understand. The chattin’ felt like nothing a real man would say, and it was also odd that they be talkin’ to themselves at times. No real pirate would be philosophisin’ when he could be plunderin’.

Also, we pirates love a good tale but this tale be as lost as a ship without a compass. It takes far too long to get to the piracy we came here for and it be more a series of things happenin’ than a simple tale o’ plunderin’. The story could do with being keelhauled.

I almost felt like throwing the movie overboard but me crew kept me focused. And I be pleased I did, for this was a rip-roarin’ piratey romp.

The tale may be a troubled one, but once the crew set sail, there be lots of high seas action that’ll make any pirate proud. Errol Flynn be a fine captain, commanding his ship and his crew with charm and swagger, and proves himself to be a cunning and wily adversary to his foes. He’s the kind of fella you wanna drink some grog and sing shanties with and I won’t hear a bad word about him. He’s a stellar captain.

Captain Blood also be a great source of merriment that can while away the long hours at sea. It produced some good belly laughs, it did, and the battles at sea and the sword fights got me blood racin’ and desperate to get out plunderin’. I weren’t too sure about the sword fight between Blood and fellow pirate Levasseur (Basil Rathbone), because there be points where it looks like they’re just hitting each other’s swords, which I can confirm ain’t no way to kill a man.

I also weren’t too keen on the romantic part of the tale. Aye, Arabella be a fine wench, but no pirate worth his salt would be as attached to a maiden as that. A pirate’s first love be the sea, although they do make a fine couple o’ lovers when they’re seen together.

Captain Blood weren’t the best movie I ever seen, but it be a fine romp which will keep ye merry, and what more could a good pirate need? The movie gets a hearty YARRRRR from me.

Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone & Ross Alexander
Written by Rafael Sabatini (novel) and Casey Robinson
Produced by Harry Joe Brown & Gordon Hollingshead
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cinematography by Ernest Haller & Hal Mohr
Edited by George Amy

Favourite Scene: Once the crew escape and steal the ship, the movie gets a lot more fun.
Scene That Bugged Me: When Blood fights Lavasseur, there are points where Blood will be giving a big speech and Lavasseur would just whack his sword against Blood’s. It looked so silly.

Watch it if: Ye like pirates and want to watch pirates do pirate things. YARRRR!
Avoid it if: You’re a ninja

#202 Once Upon A Time In China

(1991, Hark Tsui)

“No matter how good our kung-fu is, it will never defeat guns”

Once Upon A Time In China is mentioned in the 1001 Movies To See Before You Die as being a grand celebration of Chinese history, a meticulous, breath-taking masterpiece which revitalises Chinese folk history and is a milestone in Hong Kong cinema. Which is interesting, because that doesn’t feel like the film I watched.

Once Upon A Time In China is about Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung (Jet Li), as he begins to recruit members for a militia group designed to fight against the invading foreigners from Britain and America. There’s a local gang involved in human trafficking, a mysterious martial arts master named Iron Fist Yim seeking to battle Wong to prove his strength, and a battle against the American invaders with their new-fangled guns and stuff.

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#199 Spartacus

(1960, Stanley Kubrick)

“I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus!” (etc.)

Oh good, a big three hour historical epic. I love these. I love movies shot at wide angles with so many characters that none are ever really introduced properly so you don’t care about anybody. I love movies about ancient civilisations filmed with a self-important pomposity that you just beg for it to end. Oh, wait, Spartacus is actually entertaining? Really? Let me see this.

Spartacus is about Spartacus (Kirk Douglas), as redundant as that sounds. He’s a slave to the Romans, and has become so uncooperative in slavery that he’s forced into servitude as a gladiator. During his training, he rebels against the Romans, leading the other gladiators to stage a revolt. He then heads out on a mission to free all the slaves and lead them to a new life.

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#189 King Kong

(1933, Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack)

“It was beauty killed the beast”

It was inevitable that at least one giant monster movie would end up on my list. For a time you couldn’t move for giant monster movies, whether it was Universal chucking increasingly silly prehistoric monsters at New York or the nuclear monsters that stomped all over Tokyo in the Japanese kaiju genre. But they all owe a debt of gratitude to the original giant monster, the one and only monkey man, King Kong.

Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is a famous director who likes to make movies in the jungle. For his latest big picture, he plans to travel to an uncharted island, and for the first time he plans on using an actress in a prominent role. However, no big-name actresses are willing to make the long journey, so Denham goes out on the streets to find someone, and ends up hiring an unemployed woman named Ann (Fay Wray). When Denham and his crew reach the island, they find that the natives worship a creature named Kong, who turns out to be a giant prehistoric ape who takes a shine to Ann.

And then at that point the plot drops out so we can watch creaky puppets fight each other until Kong gets taken to New York and decides to climb the Empire State Building in a fit of rage. Your average Thursday, then.

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#146 Avatar

(2009, James Cameron)

“One life ends, another begins”

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