05 July 2012

Summer Fantasy Fun

Fantasy Summer Fun
By Kristin Battestella

What better way to beat the heat than with a fanciful and adventurous eighties staycation?

Heavy Metal – Though the Heavy Metal 2000 sequel is decent, this 1981 anthology has all the action, sex, humor, scares, and heroism needed for a cult classic. Obviously, great music from the likes of Stevie Nicks, Journey, Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath and more contributes to the beloved status. Vocal skills from John Candy (Who’s Harry Crumb?), Eugene Levy (American Pie), and Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters) lend weight to such memorable tales as “Den” and the stoning, far out “So Beautiful and So Dangerous”.  I love the zombies of “B-17,” for they are still scary to me after all these years.  There’s delightful everyman amid the fantastic treats with “Harry Canyon” and “Captain Stern,” too.  Sure, the framing story might be a bit thin, but the lovely, sweeping, and orchestral finale “Taarna” concludes it all in perfect fantasy fashion.  Some of the animation and design will look poorly or disjointed to audiences today thanks to multiple sources, directors, and techniques of the time. However, Heavy Metal was also ahead of its time then, and it’s still impressive overall. Besides, there’s something to be said for cartoons just for adults, too. This is a sexy, gross, slightly evil, and well-done collection.

Lovespell – Richard Burton (Cleopatra), Nicholas Clay (Excalibur), and Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager) star in this somewhat obscure 1981 Tristan and Isolt tale. The old speaketh titles are tough to read onscreen, but lovely music, stunning locales, ancient castles, and appropriately early medieval costumes and d├ęcor set the mood perfectly.  This isn’t high knights and chivalry mockery, but the accents and period dialogue will be tough for some. There are no subtitles on the poor video release, either. Thankfully, Mulgrew is feisty and enchanting while Burton is somewhat jerky and overbearing, as expected. He also looks a bit too old for the super young Kate. However, who else could be the King of Cornwall? Both are perfectly cast to match their historical parts. Unfortunately, Clay’s inferior, weak Tristan hampers the picture. His poufy hair, lame delivery, droopy pouts, and soft focus scenes irrevocably date the film and take away from Burton’s more skilled presence.  The melodrama and love story elements are a bit simple, indeed, and such to die for love happens too, too fast before it all falls apart in the end.  The scale and story could have been tighter, but the period elegance is mighty entertaining for genre audiences or youthful, fanciful medieval fans. Though not a fantasy so much as a straight telling of the corresponding Arthurian legend, the magical charm wins here.

Somewhat Split

The Sword and the Sorcerer – Lee Horsley’s (Nero Wolfe, Paradise) 1982 yarn will certainly be entertaining for those who grew up on sword and sorcery pictures or audiences that like the eighties B fantasy style. One can take the humor and mistakes here and have a drinking game good time. There’s a lot of fun in the story and potential for more, too. Perhaps that’s while I feel so torn- this could have been something great and memorable like the Conan films or The Beastmaster.  Unfortunately, if you go into this picture in your right mind, everything ends up kind of a mess. Some plot points simply make no sense whatsoever, and the action is woefully slow motion nonsensical. There is hardly any of the titular evil sorcerer, nor enough medieval fantasy boobs for an R rating today. The bad dialogue has not stood the test of time, nor has Lee Horsley. I’m not even really sure why he’s that famous, yet everyone knows his name.  I’d give this finally available supposed sequel in spirit Tales of an Ancient Empire a chance, though- even if it is probably most of the same.

And a Recent Skipper

Your Highness – There’s no wit, bad dialogue, lots of course language, and plenty of flat jokes from the very big, well known cast here. James Franco (127 Hours) I swear is mocking us, but Natalie Portman (Black Swan) should have known better. Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) is on form, Damien Lewis (Band of Brothers) is a fun jerk, and Toby Jones (Frost/Nixon) is perfectly twisted. Unfortunately, the anachronisms, poor sex references, and a too over the top without the intelligence of Men in Tights focus ruin the quality production values, decent music, and goofy but good costumes.  Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) is cute, but somehow she’s still playing the same 21st century quirky girl. The bad effects and singing are a no, and the cutting off the Minotaur’s penis thing just takes it all way too far. Medieval comedy can be done well, but not when one is either stoned in the making or needs to be stoned to watch.  And who the hell is Danny McBride?

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