It’s not Such a Small World After All…

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Believe it or not, the world is a very large place.

I don’t know why, but Hobbits have been invading my brain again.  I have seen recent trailers for “The Hobbit”: the Desolation of Smaug“.  With its impeding release – and thus my growing excitement about it – I couldn’t help but think of how grand in scope this film (and the other two in that same trilogy of films as well as the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy) truly is.  This in turn lead me to think about (as Campbell so aptly described it) the Hero’s Journey.  Many of us are prone to see the Journey on the surface, but in truth there is another Journey …on the inside of the character.  Allow me to explain.

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” (like all the other Peter Jackson / Tolkien-inspired films) is filmed in New Zealand.  That’s the other side of the world to me, quite literally.  I cannot help but think of how long it would take to get there whenever I see it.  A truly marvelous setting for a fantasy film.  Now, I am a HUGE fan of fantasy films and novels.  As a general statement about the genre, those stories often involve a journey.  Not to sound like a dullard here, but isn’t that a necessary component to an adventure?  Anyway, when you consider the story of “The Hobbit“, it is not just a journey or an adventure, but it is also something else: a discovery of the self.

In “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“, Gandalf chastises poor Bilbo for refusing his offer to join Thorin and his group.  The wizard calmly explains that when he was younger, Bilbo had a taste for adventure in his blood.  He claims it is due to his heritage (that of being a Took).  After some consideration, Bilbo changes his mind and joins Thorin and the Dwarves.  Along his journey, he will be challenged in ways few people ever are…and it will change him forever.

I guess what I was thinking about was that the world for Bilbo was his home in the Shire.  That was it.  When he was young, he craved adventure but along the way of his life, he became rather rooted in his home.  This is very similar to pretty much everyone I know.  We all grow up and we trade that youthful yearning for adventure for the comforts of home.  It’s not hard to grasp, Bilbo’s story.  It is easy to see that he makes a very bold choice, and one that is fairly out of his comfort zone.  Yet, there is something to this choice that has always made me wonder:  did Gandalf truly know what was in Bilbo’s heart?

In the wide, wide world of New Zealand – or Middle Earth, for that matter – there is nothing more daring than to step outside your comfort zone.  Many things can encourage you to do so.  As time marches on, friendships fade as you drift apart from one another, you see your family less & less, you no longer have as much in common with the people you grew up with, and then suddenly you realize how much you have changed from whom you once were.  There’s no shame or wrong in this; it’s life.  In the case of Bilbo though, he experienced really none of this.  He had abandoned his youth because he had CONVINCED himself that he was a Hobbit through and through…and Hobbits are home-bodies.  In truth, Gandalf saw that Bilbo was living a lie.

In my mind, IF Bilbo had truly changed to become the person he was at the beginning of “The Hobbit“, then he would never have gone on that journey.  Gandalf isn’t convincing Bilbo he needs to change in order to be true to himself; Gandalf is instead reminding Bilbo of what he once longed for – and to point out that there was nothing in the Shire to hold him there any longer.  In a way, Gandalf is like a cruel mirror that reflects the Shire in the way Bilbo once saw it.  And in so doing, Gandalf frees Bilbo.

Great and scary things await poor Bilbo along his travels.  How many of us have faced a similar problem?  You step outside of your normal, comfortable life and suddenly you are faced with trials and tribulations at every turn.  There is only one truth that serves us in these circumstances: know thyself.  If you are embracing your true identity, then nothing can deter you.  If you are living life as the “authentic You” then the rest of what you have always wanted will come to you.  (If anybody is interested in a truly awesome read, I highly recommend Melody Fletcher.)  Sorry if this seems a little out there or off-topic, but I think this has relevance here.

Bilbo finds the adventure of a lifetime outside of his front door and it all begins with one step.  The world is indeed a very large place.  We must look at the tale of Bilbo and his adventure though and see the journey he takes within himself.  He fights trolls and giant spiders, finds magical treasures, and ultimately comes face to face with a beast of true legend: a fire-breathing dragon!  But this is all the surface stuff.  And it is the same crap that almost every hero in every story deals with.  (Read Joseph Campbell if you doubt me.)

The real topic that I am driving at here is Bilbo’s journey within himself.  How does he overcome being away from home and all the comforts it brings?  He uses his home as inspiration for helping Thorin and the Dwarves find THEIR home – or rather, reclaim their home.  He finds his courage when facing Gollum in the cave, not through action but a game of riddles.  At first blush, this seems to be done in kind of an arrogant manner.  A Hobbit is this smart?  But on a deeper level, this interaction looks more like if Bilbo fell into Evil (let’s say he gets greedy for the gold “under the Mountain”), this would be like Bilbo confronting himself.  (Yes, we all know that Gollum WAS a Hobbit and this is closer to the surface truth than I would like, but the analogy still holds up I think.)  So, when you look at this scene again – with this analogy fresh in your head , it actually comes off like a warning to Bilbo.

And what of that warning then?  Does Bilbo heed it?   To some extent, yes, but on the other hand, most assuredly no.  Bilbo finds courage after meeting Gollum.  He fights to save Thorin’s life not long after this meeting.  Why the sudden change in him?  He was separated from the group, forgotten.  He knew the dwarves didn’t particularly like him.  So why return and step up to face the albino orc with the prosthetic limb?  I think Bilbo realized that his home was like the cave to Gollum.  He was happy there, but lost all sight of his true self trapped within his Hobbit Hole.  His happiness was a facade.

Truthfully, he wasn’t like other Hobbits.  When he realized this, he knew he could not abandon Thorin.  Bilbo wasn’t going to retreat back his “cave” for fear of becoming something akin to Gollum.  So he fights, bravely too, and wins much respect for his actions.  I always thought perhaps the One Ring fueled his anger in that fight.  Maybe it gave him strength where he had none before?  Maybe it just made him angry and THAT is what fueled him in battle?  I don’t know the answer there, but it is fun to ponder those questions.

So Bilbo has much to offer us as viewers of his tale, for his journey is both literal and on a deeper psychological level.  Hopefully you have enjoyed this non-review.  I promise, I will try to sprinkle some more articles that are more news-worthy as time goes by.  Thanks for taking the time to read this slight rant about a fictitious Hobbit.   Drop a line and let me know what you think.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.



“Epic” Epic_(2013_film)_poster

Animated films these days are getting better and better.  From “Toy Story” to “Epic“, these films are becoming more than just “cartoons for the big screen”.  Allow me to state clearly, I am not a fan of the “Ice Age” franchise.  I cannot abide the lazy-mouth voice-over work by John Leguizamo as the sloth.  And I don’t like the art work.  Just my opinion, but it looks very juvenile.  May that’s the way the artist’s wanted it?  Who knows?  Regardless, not my cup of tea.  Pixar has been making masterpieces though with movies like “Up” and each of the “Toy Story” films.  I haven’t seen “Planes” or “Monsters University” yet, but I am sure I will before long.

“Epic” is from the creatures of “Ice Age”, so I was not optimistic.  However, it was better than expected.  The whole estranged father-daughter relationship was barely developed.  The 3-legged dog was a quirky touch, but cute.  There was an awesome Queen of the Forest that SHOULD have been a Disney princess kind of character – seriously Disney, how did you miss this opportunity?  She was voiced by Beyonce – which was a little odd (and she ain’t in the film long) but she was awesome for the time she was in the film!  There’s an obvious attempt at a romantic storyline (which doesn’t ever get off the ground too well).  There’s the silly comedic relief courtesy of a slug and a snail.  And the villains look fairly gnarly.

That’s the quick brush-over of the film.  Nothing too memorable there.

The filmmakers kind of missed 3 things in looking at “Epic”.  #1) If you want to do a love story, take the time onscreen to develop it and focus in on it.  #2) If you have some mystical fascinating thing happen to the main character in which she magically shrinks to become the size of the “tiny people’, please EXPLAIN WHY.  #3) When presenting villains that are out to rot the entire forest – allowing you an opportunity to speak to deforestation of this planet – please take the time to delve into it.

These are the areas where “Epic” failed.  It could have been so much more of a film had they just focused on one of those 3 things and taking their time with it.  But no, the filmmakers decided to throw all of it into the film blender and hit “HIGH”.  Sadly, the end result is a film that you can see had potential, but failed to complete its noble quest.

It’s times like these that I wish I could have been in the focus group or test audiences to screen the film.  If you want to say the villains are bad because they are out to turn the green, growing world of the forest to ash and rot, then don’t tell us – SHOW US.  Don’t say they are part of the balnce of all life and then portray them as “the bad guys”.  If they are part of the balance in nature, then I think you are  A) shooting WAY over the heads of the younger audiences, or B) you have confused the adults that care about the story.  (I fall into the latter category…I think.)

So, instead of developing a love story and throwing some song & dance numbers a la’ Disney, they only sort of dance around the perimeter of it.  You have the main characters kiss before it is over, making us foolish audience members think this is going somewhere, and then you have them return to their normal lives.  Oh, I did forgot to mention that normal for these two would be 1 is now a giant “stomper” and the other is a wee tiny “leaf man”.

Okay, so they failed on the love story.  They failed at presenting a proper villain in any clear-cut manner.  They delivered only so-so on the comedy, and the rest is fairly cliche’.  So, what are you left with?  Not much unfortunately.  Like I said, it had potential, but it just didn’t complete itself.  Get this though, the film was estimated to have a $100 million budget…and it grossed just over it’s budget.  How sad is that?  For that much money, you should be turning in something pretty …epic.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.



I have been wanting to write this review for some time now.  I discovered this film on a whim seemingly ages ago.  Strangely, I had not heard of it at all.  I watched by myself one day completely at random.  I thought it was fantastic!  It has so much going for it and none of it was what passes for modern “horror film” of today.  If you detected my sarcastic sneer right there, then you know what I am about to say next.

I love it when a Horror movie is reviled because “it isn’t very scarey”.  Really?  Allow me – once more – to explain the difference between Horror fiction and film.  Horror fiction is (to paraphrase Wikipedia) “a genre of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, scare or startle readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror by creating an eerie and frightening atmosphere.”  Horror filma film genre seeking to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s primal fears. Horror films often feature scenes that startle the viewer.

Get it?  Horror as writing goes creates an atmosphere to scare you shitless.  It scares you because the atmosphere it creates induces your fears.  In a sense, it has lured your mind into a scenario where it has created fear inside you.  A Horror film on the other hand, is striving for a negative reaction in you the viewer.  In simple terms a Horror movie seeks to startle you and/or piss you off.  GREAT Horror movies feel more like Horror fiction than film.

Okay, so where does “Darkness” rank in the scope of my esteemed grading system for Horror films?  High up there, folks.  It has a stereotypical plot, but that suddenly derails and becomes something twisted.  It has supernatural elements, but they are so subtle in their portrayal that they seem almost trivial.  The real villains of the story aren’t the monsters but mortals.  And the ending is …priceless.

Folks, this is what makes a true Horror film in my opinion.  It is unexpected, frightening, subtle, great acting, and something truly creepy is expressed.  The concept of being afraid of the dark comes out as a central theme, but it is just devilish in how it is used throughout this film.  You see ghostly images lurking the darkened corners of a room.  They don’t pop out at you and say “BOO!”.  It’s nothing so garish and cheap as that – even though this tactic is used still today in modern Horror films.  It’s so lame!  Seeing those ghostly faces with blackened eyes staring at you from the shadows and never emerging is FAR more effective!

The best part of “Darkness” is that the true monsters are the people involved in this plot, not some burned-demon or masked maniac.  THAT is really an effective twist in this film and I thought it made the movie.  Anna Paquin does a fine job in the film, especially towards the climatic high point near the end of the film.  But Giancarlo Giannini is FANTASTIC as the grandfather!  He owns this film, hands-down.  Of course, having Iain Glen and Lena Olin in the film as the parents made the film like ten times better than it could have been with other actors.  The entire film I was waiting for Glen to turn evil or Olin to be revealed as the mastermind behind this entire wicked story!  Neither came true, but how cool is that?!  Glen’s portrayal of going mad is a classic bit of cinema.  Ranks right up there with Nicholson in Kubrick’s “The Shining“.

It is no surprise that this is technically a foreign film, since it was made in Spain.  Sadly, this film never saw a major US release.  Literally, NEVER.  It was shelved for a year and then debuted at Christmas?  Then it was released in the UK a year after that.  So a film that was made in Spain, premiered in Spain the same year, and then just disappeared.  Bizarre, right?  Here’s something even more bizarre: it ended up grossing more than 3 times its measly budget of $10 million – despite some pretty negative reviews.

This brings me to another hallowed point: the rebuttal of the angry Christian.  When any film teeters on the edge of something Satanic, the Christian community lashes out at it, usually very loudly.  My only real question is: if you thought there was even a chance of the subject matter turning that way, why go see the film?  It is baffling to me, and it only proves one thing: these people have nothing better to do.  Rather than delve into it in great detail, allow me to state this clearly: this film talks about “evil” and “darkness” and the “supernatural” because it is a Horror film and that’s kind of expected I think.  [To read an interesting thread of conversation on this exact point, check out the Message Board post on it HERE.

In summary, “Darkness” is an excellent choice for Halloween viewing.  It is stylish in a subtle way, with some great acting and some stunning plot twists.  If you have a fear of the dark, then this movie will certainly get you.  And if you are an angry Christian, this film will also get you.  Regardless, I found it to be a strong Horror movie with just the right amount of elements of Horror fiction to make this one a GREAT Horror film.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

The Howling

“The Howling” (1981)  The_Howling_(1981_film)_poster

Do you remember when you used to tune into a Horror movie and secretly kind of freak out because you were stupid enough to watch it by yourself in a darkened house?  Yeah, that was me at some point in the ’80s.  I lived in a fairly remote part of the world, a valley surrounded by lots and lots of trees.  My nearest neighbor was nearly a mile from doorstep.  My backyard was one of the darkest places in the world – no street lights, nothing reflective, just utter darkness…and the endless forest.

I was probably in my early teens when “The Howling” came to TV.  As fate would have it, my family went out that evening and left me alone.  I was so excited to watch what I was sure was going to be a cool Horror film!  (Back then, a movie premiere on TV was a seriously hyped affair.)  Sometimes when you are a teenager, you don’t think things thorough clearly enough.  In this instance, I wish I could have said it aloud to myself “Horror movie set in the woods, featuring werewolves, and you are home alone, for hours, with dogs outside, and lots and lots of woods.”  It was a bad idea.

The Howling” for the record scared me a lot more than I think it would have in a different setting for my 1st viewing.  However, that’s not how it went down for me and the end result was me petrified to even look outside my window.  I was never so happy to see my brothers come strolling in through the downstairs door!

The film started out clever enough.  A female TV journalist wants to be the gritty reporter and lands a whopper of a story.  She becomes involved with a serial killer and now he only wants to talk to her.  This culminates in a TV reporter going undercover into a seedy porn shop to meet the killer, Eddie Quist, face to face.  The cops are ready to spring into action, but then something goes horribly wrong.  Eddie wants to reveal something to Karen (the reporter) and she can’t quit see what’s happening in the dark of the booth they are in but she screams, then cops barge in guns firing and Eddie dies.  Karen is so psychologically traumatized after the incident that she seeks counseling from the Doc that moonlights as a guest on her TV channel‘s news program.

At no point in this beginning did I see “werewolf” advertised or even hinted at – other than of course the title of the film.  This is one of the best set-ups for a Horror movie I have ever seen.  It’s brilliant.  Everything seems very grounded and pretty believable.  Karen is having bad dreams and she can’t work, and she is having marital problems.  This all looks like some other kind of film, but certainly not a werewolf-movie!

The end result of Karen’s counseling is that she is invited to the Doc’s little retreat up the coast called “the Colony”.  Uh oh.  Anytime anybody in any film refers to a place as “the Colony”, it never ends well.  It’s other some kind of Satanic cult hiding there, or pagans sacrificing humans to appease the old Gods, or ghost children that haunt the place, or something else that basically makes my mind think “Colony = bad place”.  (I Invite anyone to track down a movie reference to “the Colony” that isn’t a bad place.)

I am not going to get into the rest of the story, because it is far better to let anyone who hasn’t seen “the Howling” to experience it first hand.  What I will say is that this movie has a LOT going for it.  Eddie is an awesome villain and creepier than Hell in appearance.  The actor’s name is Robert Picardo.  You may know him from the TV shows China Beach or The Wonder Years or (more recently) Star Trek: Voyager or even more recently Stargate SG-1.  Yes, THAT Robert Picardo.  (I know, I was shocked too!) Dee Wallace plays Karen kind of like a whining, overly-emotional woman that is constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Not the greatest actress I have ever seen, but fitting enough for this role.  There are also some great cameos and smaller roles filled in with some incredible talent: John Carradine, Noble Willingham, Kevin McCarthy, and (my favorite) Slim Pickens.

It also has killer special effects!  No lie here: these are the best werewolf effects ever created – and they have yet to be beat.  It won a Saturn Award for Eddie’s transformation scene.  This is work of legendary masters Rick Baker and Rob Bottin.  With all of today’s advances in the field, and even the surprise hit TV show FaceOff on Sci-Fi Channel, Baker & Bottin’s work is the stuff of true genius.  It is part editing work and part straight-up awesome make-up work.  These werewolves are terrifying!  (That they are 7′ tall doesn’t hurt either.)

I don’t know what every other film critic thinks, but I can say that outside of “Wolfen” “Dog Soldiers” and “The Wolf Man“, “the Howling” ranks as one of the best werewolf-based Horror films out there.  So, instead of turning on some shitty gore-fest this Halloween season, turn on “The Howling” instead and spend some quality time alone…in the woods…named the Colony…and get freaked out (you know the rest of the story).

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

Beatiful Creatures

“Beautiful Creatures” Beautiful_Creatures_One,4D_low_res

It’s the spooky month of October, which of course means Halloween.  To those of you whom have been reading, you are by now familiar with my slant on Horror films.  I enjoy them…but they have to be true Horror films.  Slasher/gore flicks do NOT qualify in my opinion.  It’s about atmosphere and in today’s cinema, apparently no studio cares enough about the quality of films they are putting out to give a squat about something as trivial as atmosphere.

Alright, so before I digress into that debate once more…allow me to get back on track.

I recently watched “Beautiful Creatures“.  It’s a film about a teenage witch in South Carolina, which sounded a lot like Georgia or Louisiana to me.  It’s about a love story.  It’s based on a book.  It was filled with some cool special effects.  Blah, blah, blah.  You know the drill, right?

In most cases where I am only so-so interested in a film, I tend to expect very little.  I figure this way there is less room for disappointment.  I haven’t the read the book that the film was based upon, so I had even less expectations than some other viewers.  I just thought it looked kind of cool.

What I walked away from this film with was and golf-clap kind of appreciation.  You see, they actually created interesting characters.  The characters were all enjoyable to watch, and I found myself saying aloud “I want to know more about those characters”.  It was as if the movie just teased you with these compelling characters.  And that is a great “problem” to have.

It starts with the main characters: Ethan (played by Alden Ehrenreich) and Lena (played by Alice Englert).  Ethan is charming, but not some pretty-boy model wanna-be dressed to the nines.  Lena is pretty and complicated, but again not a model wanna-be dressed in some absurd fashion or dressed like a hooker.  I’m sorry, but the older I get the more ridiculous I think some of these kids in movies look.  And yet, we the audience are supposed to forgive these lapses in judgement and just move on.  I say HELL NO.  The relationship between these two teens really is believable and sincere.  I thought it looked pretty effortless, like the way it should be.  The actors were great choices for their parts, because they looked …well, normal.  There was a kind of retro look to Ethan that worked because it fit his character.  It was subtle and not too over-the-top.  And Lena could have been portrayed as some sort of hateful boo-hoo angst-ridden outsider than is horribly misunderstood.  Instead, she comes off as a real person, complicated and unsure of herself.  Like I said, these characters were really well-written.  The actors did a fine job at their craft and truly brought the characters to life.

Okay, so it was well-written and it had a lot of other great actors in well-done roles.  Jeremy Irons as Macon Ravenwood, Lena’s Uncle, and Emma Thompson as the real villain of the story, Lena’s mother Sarafine, were superb additions to the cast and story.  But Emmy Rossum as Lena’s cousin Ridley was the real head-turning role.  I didn’t even know it was her until my wife told me!  Now THAT ladies & gents is acting!  Once I knew I could see her through the makeup and costumes, but it was her acting that really disguised her.  Wow – nice job!

The whole story made me think of Anne Rice‘s 1st book of the Mayfair Witches Trilogy, The Witching Hour.  Awesome book!  Remember what I said at the beginning of this about atmosphere?  Well, I used to read that book in my basement bedroom growing up on stormy nights, huddled in a blanket in my high wingback chair by my heater and lamp.  It was a an awesome experience and one that helped to create a real connection between myself as a a reader and the material of the book.  I really got into that book as a result – still one of my all-time favorites.  My point is, “Beautiful Creatures” harkened back to haunting tale of the Mayfair Witches, and that is a good connection for me.

It was nice to watch a film where the story was compelling and interesting from start to finish, and the characters were the heart of the story – not an afterthought.  The film brought to me a sense of “I wonder if this will become a series of movies?” – mostly because I would interested to see more of the story.  Wasn’t that the goal of this film?  If so, it worked!  Heck, I even like the way it ended!

So, as the first of what I hope will be more Halloween-inspired reviews this season, I highly recommend “Beautiful Creatures” – not so much as a Horror movie (because it’s NOT), but more because it might help get you mind started on thinking of ghost, ghouls, and – of course- witches.


…that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself…

Welcome, welcome, welcome!

To all of my Fair Readers, I bid you welcome.  Some of you go all the way back to 2007 when I first started to write movie reviews.  Some of you followed my on  Some of you followed my through the Frederick News Post.  And still others have found me through Word Press.  To all of you, I bid you welcome to this iteration of THE REEL VOICE.  (I know there are others out there with very similar – or even identical names – but I assure you, this is the the one you may know from the above-mentioned sources.)

I have spent the last several weeks trying to pull all of my reviews and articles into one cohesive blog.  Along the way, I have tried to sort out exactly what I wanted to write here.  From here on out, I will continue to write my reviews – so I will have one category of Movie Reviews (which you can easily access in the sidebar item marked “Your Categories, Sir…”).  I will also attempt to write other more absorbing articles in general that have something to do with the film industry.  I cannot guarantee that I will write this in any particular order – more of a “as-they-come-to-me” kind of a fashion.  Therefore I will have a another Category labeled Blog Thoughts.

So, as a more formal introduction, welcome to THE REEL VOICE!  A blog created to share both movie reviews and thoughts about movies.  If you enjoy what you read here, I encourage you to Follow me.  I love to get into conversations about film, so feel free to leave a comment or two!  And, if you have any suggestions as to what you would like to hear me review, I’d welcome the suggestions as well.

Thank you so much for visiting, reading, following, and commenting!

…and this IS the THE REEL VOICE.

Conan the Barbarian

Conan the BarbarianConan_the_barbarian

In the early ‘80s, fantasy and sword-and-sorcery genre was the rage. If you were looking for tough guys in loin cloths fighting with really big swords and scantily clad women as the female leads, then this was the “age” for you. Sadly, a lot of that genre was filled with ugly, pathetic attempts to make epic films without an inspired vision. What I mean is, those films were nicknamed “hack-and-slash” because that was the only real substance to them. They featured brutal violence and cheesy costumes, not to mention some horrific acting. In almost all cases, these films were never treated as serious and they almost always were filmed overseas and often in Italy. I admit, I have seen (I think) every single one of these films.

In 1982, there was the film that kicked it all off: “Conan the Barbarian”. It would be the film to launch Arnold Schwarzenegger into stardom (although not his 1st film). Produced by Dino DeLaurentis and directed by John Milius, the film chronicles the tale of Robert E. Howard’s Conan. Arnold is MASSIVE in this film, maybe not as huge as he was in “Pumping Iron” but gargantuan by any measure still. However, I dare say that this film was not designed around the concept of Arnold showing off his huge muscles while wearing furry boots and a loin cloth. Yes, this film had substance.

Conan the Barbarian” may not be the best acted movie that Arnold ever did (I would recommend “Terminator” and “End of Days” for that), but it had a story. The story follows Conan from his tragic past through slavery and his profession as a Gladiator to finally his quest for vengeance. Along the way, he makes friends, gets crucified, finds religion, and falls in love. Now, does that sound pretty epic to you? The best part about this film is that it has a great tale woven into the action sequences. You almost have to be in a very peaceful state of mind to sit back and really “get” the deeper moments of this film, but they are there I assure you. I will always remember Conan’s famous “prayer” that begins with the line “Crom, I have never prayed to you before; I have no tongue for it.”

Beyond the story, there was the supporting cast. James Earl Jones is one of the greatest and most-overlooked villains in cinema history as Thulsa Doom. His performance is hypnotic and his costumes were inspired to say the least! His lines are just plain classic! “Now they will know why they are afraid of the dark; Now they learn why they fear the night.” I guess I am just a sucker for villains that know how to speak and are utterly creepy. The legendary Mako stars as a wizard and narrator of the film. King Osric is played by none other than Max Von Sydow. Needless to say, the supporting cast helped this movie succeed where others of its kind would fail utterly in the coming years.

A key to all great fantasy genre films though is always the music. (Special Effects are great but they show their age as time goes by and that can detract from the overall quality of the film.) The late and truly great Basil Poledouris scored this film and it is MAGNIFICENT! I just got this on CD from my awesome wife for Christmas and I think I have listened to it at least 30 times since then!

Conan the Barbarian” paved the way for such drivel as the forgettable “Deathstalker” series and “The Barbarians”. However, it also opened the door for things like the wondrous “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the “Harry Potter” franchise. You cannot imagine the absolute crap that was labeled “fantasy” in movies that came out in the ‘80s, which those of us who are fantasy fans will remember all too well. I think I cried when “Fellowship of the Ring” finally came out. It was a LONG wait I had to endure before the fantasy genre was finally taken seriously.

Conan the Barbarian” gave me my 1st taste of the genre and I loved it. I still do after all these years, and I find that there is still depth within this “hack-and-slash” flick! It isn’t for the faint-hearted with gratuitous violence and gore, and I don’t think anyone under the age of 14 should watch it due to nudity and some thematic elements. Otherwise, if you are a fan of fantasy and haven’t seen this movie, I recommend that you give it a shot.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE


The King’s Speech

The King’s SpeechKings_speech_ver3

Its Oscar time once more and try as I might, there are just too many films to see – and not all are available to watch.  My wife and I really wanted to see this one though.  I enjoy drama when it focuses upon historical material most of all, as “The King’s Speech” did.

The film follows the speech-impaired “Bertie”, known to history as the father of the current Queen of England and as King George VI.  Bertie was thrown into his kingship at the advent of WWII, when England sorely needed a strong leader.  His father passes away and the throne passes first to Bertie’s older brother, Edward VIII.  Alas, poor Edward wants to marry Wallis Simpson an American divorcee.  His impending marriage threatens the stability of the Empire and Parliament will not stand for it.  So, Edward abdicates the throne in favor of Bertie.

The film chronicles the events well, and shows us the attempts made by the once-Duke and Duchess of York to cure his stammering.  The nation wanted someone that could speak for them, and this man had a big problem in that very department.  I found the film to treat the material with grace and kindness, which I would expect since this is an English film.  But it was the actors that made this movie Oscar material.

Colin Firth may very well win at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of the Duke of York as he ascends the throne.  Helena Bonham Carter was also superb in the film.  These two would have been enough to make the movie a smash hit with the critics, but it was the addition of Geoffery Rush as the Duke’s unorthodox speech therapist that seals the deal.  Rush is positively brilliant in the movie and he makes Colin Firth shine all the more in the scenes with just the two of them.  Firth has always been a very talented actor that never seemed to be cast quite right.  In “The King’s Speech”, his talent is showcased and I have a hard time imagining anyone else playing the role so well.

Carter’s portrayal of the Duchess of York is subtle and very sincere.  You believe her as a wife that cares so much for her husband that she’d do anything to help.  She and Rush both seem to do just the right amount of support for Firth, who in turn delivers a stunning performance.  How on Earth anyone can fake a stammer and a little lisp that is so subtle as to be almost inaudible is beyond me!  Kudos to the Director of the film, Tom Hooper, for utilizing such a fine cast with such a deft hand.

So, without having seen a lot of other Oscar-nominated films, I can’t say “the King’s Speech” is a sure winner for Best Picture.  However, I CAN say that Firth, Carter, Rush, and Hooper are all extremely strong candidates for winners in all their respective categories.  I highly recommend this film to anyone with an interest in speech therapy, history, or just drama.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE


Morning Glory

Morning GloryMorning_Glory_Poster

Sorry that it has taken me so long to post another review.  Honestly, with Spring right around the corner, it is difficult to find the time – as opposed to finding the time to throw myself into yard work!  However, my wife and I discovered a film that we both had forgotten about.  I remember the trailer for it.  I remember the plot-line and the cast both being interesting, and yet I do not recall it ever having been released in theaters.  Maybe you feel the same way?  Suffice to say, “Morning Glory” was a discovered-by-chance movie for us.

Regardless of how I came by “Morning Glory”, I take issue with the film.  The film is categorized as a Romantic Comedy.  I am here to say that it most certainly is not.  Trust me folks, there is so little romance in this film that such an aspect of the film should have been forgotten about COMPLETELY.  While the storyline is compelling, nothing is worse than expecting one kind of a movie and being given something else.  I have always taken issue with comedies that suddenly decide to be serious, and I feel similarly in regards to this film.  It has to do with a changing your expectations I suppose.

The film does have a good story and it has a powerhouse cast: Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Goldblum, John Pankow, and Patrick Wilson.  Okay, so did I throw you with those last 2 names?  Patrick Wilson I had to really think about; he appears as Night Owl in “the Watchmen ”.  John Pankow was tougher though.  My wife’s stellar memory came into play: you may remember him from the hit TV show “Mad About You ” when he played (wait for it…wait for it…) Ira Buchman!  Seriously though, the cast is incredible.  Sadly, the film fails to do anything with ANY of these actors.  The film spends so much time of Harrison Ford’s character that it fails to do anything with anyone else.  This is a massive misuse of talent, and probably a budget too.  Anyone could have been in the place of these other characters.  All you had to do was pay Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams and you could have done much less with the rest of the cast.

The good storyline is compelling, but not very evocative.  What I mean is that the film does move you.  It doesn’t feel like the Today show, it looks like a sub-standard morning TV show. (I know that’s the idea, but this is dumbed-down so much as to not seem realistic at all.)  However, the “we-are-so-poor-we-can’t-buy-doorknobs” aspect of this was so over-done as to seem utterly cliché.  While I felt for Rachel McAdam’s character in the film, the character itself is given no depth whatsoever.  Truth is, “Morning Glory” doesn’t seem too deep in the thought-out department.  The script is okay, but the entire movie doesn’t have any great punch-lines.  (It does feature some great scenes with a hysterical weather man, though.)

Overall, “Morning Glory” isn’t worth the watch, especially if you are looking for a Romantic Comedy.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

Arthur (1981)

Arthur” (1981) ArthurDVD

It took me almost 30 years to finish watching this movie.  How’s that for a statement?  Yes, I tried watching this comedy starring Dudley Moore and John Gielgud.  I was 14 (I think) and I was told this was a very funny film.  I saw the 1st 15 minutes and I was irritated with Dudley Moore’s cackling laughter.  So, I turned the channel.

Flash forward to this year, and my wife insisting that “Arthur” really is a funny movie.  She tells me this, but all I can hear is that laughter.  Short, drunk and very British – that was my recollection of Dudley Moore’s portrayal of the titular character.  Like with many things, I decided to listen to my wife (who offers more sound advice that I had benefited from more often than not).  She was right again!  I have to say “Arthur” is very funny indeed!

It was all about listening to the dialogue.  Arthur’s lines are hysterical!  Of course, he was drunk – and that makes several of these lines even funnier!  The lines are so great, that it makes “Arthur” one of those quote-worthy films.  “You must’ve hated this moose.”  “Yes, I see no reason for prolonging this conversation, unless you’re planning to knock over a fruit stand later in the evening.”  “It’s terribly small, tiny little country. Rhode Island could beat the crap out of it in a war. THAT’S how small it is.”

These quotes are awesome!!!  I’m actually cracking myself up while reciting them!  It is just one of those funny the older you get kind of films.  Maybe I just understand it better now.  Maybe I just needed to hear the lines better.  Or maybe I just needed to watch more than the 1st 15 minutes.  Regardless, I get this film now.

It’s an improbable tale about a billionaire who is more like a child than a man, and who finally grows up when he falls in love and his butler/man servant gets sick.  But ignore the impossibilities.  Look past the one in a billion chances.  Take the film at only face value, and you’ll have a rewarding experience.  There is no really deep message, no commentary on the rich, no criticism on moral ambiguity of Arthur.  It’s just a funny movie, and that’s all.

The performance of John Gielgud is extraordinary, most likely because he never was one known for comedy.  That alone makes “Arthur” very enjoyable.  Of course, Liza Minnelli is also pretty funny in this.  You forget sometimes how funny she can be, which I guess is because whenever I hear her name all I can think of is “Cabaret”.  Then there is Dudley Moore.  His delivery of his lines, acting as drunk as a skunk, makes this film even better than it could have been.  In truth, it is Dudley Moore that truly makes “Arthur” a comedy.  The rest is just window-dressing.

So, if you are in the mood for a downright funny movie and don’t mind a trip back to the ‘80s, then I recommend “Arthur” for a great time!

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.