Posts Tagged ‘Adventure’

MOVIE: Sanctum (2011)

February 17, 2011

My expectations for this movie were low — I was pretty much just after a 2-hour episode of I Shouldn’t Be Alive and a chance to stare lustfully at Ioan Gruffud’s delicious  nose for a while.  So, it says a lot that even going in with little in the way of hope, I still emerged from this stinker disappointed. When are the people who make movies going to realize that scripts matter?  This movie had all the elements it needed to be really entertaining — a great setting and a decent story (about a group of people trapped in a huge, underwater cave system in Australia, forced to work together to try to find their way out with minimal gear). But instead of focusing on the adventure elements, they spent way, WAY too much time on stupid, trite, unoriginal interpersonal relationship nonsense.  Beeyuck, I say.

If the whole movie had been like the last ten minutes, my pals and I agreed, where the survival and escape parts finally became the focus, it could’ve been pretty good.  Alternatively, if the characters had been interesting people with actual depth, instead of merely being oft-recycled characters from 8000 other films just like this one, it also could’ve been pretty good.  Or at least pretty better, anyway.

Instead, our four main characters were these extremely familiar yahoos:

Cranky Team Leader:  Extremely focused cave diving expert who abandoned his wife and son years ago when he realized the only thing he truly cared about was work.  Can’t express emotions and has long since given up on trying.  Likes to quote Coleridge incessantly, I’m assuming because the writer read “Kubla Khan” in high school and has been waiting ever since to impress chicks by working it into a script.  (Shut up, Coleridge.)

Team Leader’s Teenage Son:  Dragged along on this expedition by his father in a half-hearted attempt to un-irreconcilable their differences.  Predictably snotty and bitter about it, though I should note he was the only character I liked who made it to the final act.  As it turns out, Rhys Wakefield is pretty adorable;  I wouldn’t mind seeing him again in something.  Something . . . say . . . good, perhaps.

Rich American Prick:  Ioan Gruffud’s character (forced to speak in a brash American accent, which did not help matters much), who is funding the expedition.  He’s just arrived at the site as the film opens, primarily, it seems, to show off his huge, costly project to his new girlfriend.  He’s an arrogant jerk.  He also, coincidentally, has all the worst lines in the film (my friends and I were snorting back laughs every time Ioan opened his mouth, poor fella).

Also, for the record, I never want to hear Horatio Hornblower use the word “clusterfuck” ever again.  It just comes out all wrong.  Ioan, next time make them let you substitute “absolute bollocks” instead, ya dig?  Obliged.

Rich American’s Stupid Girlfriend:  She’s actually an experienced mountain climber, which is why it was so surprising when she refused to take any of the advice the divers kept giving her.  You’d think an experienced-anything would know better.  It starts with her refusing to put on a wet suit despite the obvious risk of hypothermia (the water is a mile deep in a CAVE where it gets no SUN, lady!), and it only goes downhill from there.   I couldn’t wait for her to die, to be honest.  I’m sure that makes me sound like a terrible person, but, hey, just wait until you meet her.

These guys all get trapped in the cave system together when a hurricane hits land above them and a boulder falls into their only known exit.  They spend most of the next 90 minutes bickering and swimming around, boring boring boring, and it’s not until the final ten minutes, when we’re down to just the father and son, that the movie finally hits its stride.  In the meantime, everything else goes exactly as you’d expect — the father and son clash constantly then finally bond when it becomes clear to the son that his father cares if he lives or dies, the Rich American argues all the time and acts cocky and is later revealed to be a total coward, all the nice people get killed early on and in truly horrible ways, etc. etc.

And then, ugh, there was the 3D, which was absolutely pointless.  It added nothing of interest whatsoever visually (not that there was much to work with — boringest underground cave system EVER), which surprised me because it was my understanding they shot the movie in 3D, as opposed to adding the effects later, and so one would assume they were thinking about cool things to do with it the whole time.  Alas, not.  Also, James Cameron was the producer, a man who clearly knows a lot about how to use 3D effectively (Avatar was a bad movie, yes, but the 3D effects totally blew my mind).   So, like, what the hell, team?  If you have the option of seeing this in 2D instead, you should take it.  Save yourself the extra dough and spend it on margaritas afterward so you and your own movie-watching pals can get sloshed and make fun of Ioan Gruffud all evening.  Ach, if only we’d known!

Then again, I should probably mention that it’s entirely possible this movie was a lot better than I’m giving it credit for.  Because, in all honesty, I spent a ridiculous amount of time focusing on Cranky Team Leader’s face, ignoring everything else, trying to figure out why Stellan Skarsgaard looked so weird.  Turns out, Stellan Skarsgaard looked so weird because he was actually Richard Roxburgh.  Go figure.

That plus the fact we were waited on by Poor Man’s Philip Seymour Hoffman at the concessions stand left me all dopplegangerly disoriented, which I’m sure helped matters very little.

Phew.  Whadda stinker.  I will say, though, that I had a great time watching this movie — there’s really nothing quite as entertaining as seeing a bad film with a couple of bad-film loving friends.  Let’s do that again soon, ladies.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Action, Adventure
Cast:  Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker, Nicole Downs, Allison Cratchley, John Garvin

MOVIE: Robin Hood (2010)

February 12, 2011

I wasn’t expecting much from this film, to be honest  — figured it would be a fairly standard Russell Crowe/Ridley Scott action flick, like Gladiator set in England instead of Rome.  And while that is, in fact, pretty much what it is, I ended up really enjoying it, especially the fact it takes such a different approach to the standard Robin Hood yarn.

The story most of us are familiar with is the one about the bandit living in the forest of Nottingham along with his merry band of thieves, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.  But this film starts about a year before that more traditional tale.  It opens in Europe at the end of the Crusades, where an archer named Robin Longstride (Crowe) is fighting alongside King Richard the Lionheart as they pillage their way back to England, jubilant with victory.

When Richard is killed in battle, one of his most trusted knights, Sir Robert Loxley, is given his crown to return to the palace, where it will be passed on to Richard’s brother, King John the Foolhardy.  On the way to the ship that aims to take them home, however, Loxley’s group is attacked by a gang of Frenchmen led by a British traitor named Godfrey, who, it turns out, is in cahoots with the French king, planning to turn England against John, leaving the country vulnerable to invasion.

Godfrey manages to kill all of Loxley’s men, and fatally wound Loxley himself, before Robin and his pals stumble onto the scene and scare him off.  As Loxley lies dying, he begs Robin to take his sword back to Nottingham to return to his father, Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow).  Robin, an honorable sort, can’t refuse the wish of a dying man, and once Loxley has passed, he and his gang, including ye olde familiars Little John and Will Scarlett, steal the knights’ armor and gear, with plans to pass themselves off as king’s men to gain faster passage home.

When they get to the ship, Robin identifies himself as Loxley and shows the king’s crown as evidence, nervous that at any moment, they’ll all be found out and hanged.  But nobody suspects a thing, and when Robin successfully passes the crown to John without anybody recognizing him as a fake, he and his pals decide to maintain their charade all the way to Nottingham.

When they arrive, Loxley’s father asks Robin to pretend to be his son a while longer in order to strengthen Nottingham’s status in the growing unrest.  The only hitch?  Robert’s wife, Marion, who isn’t too keen on having a stranger passing himself off as her spouse.  Luckily, it’s not long before Robin has cause to take his shirt off, taming her resistance immediately, and the two begin to fall in love.  (Well, okay, but once YOU see him without his shirt on, I think you’ll understand.)

Back at the palace, Godfrey manages to Wormtongue his way into the king’s ear, convincing John to enact enormous taxes on all the land owners so he can become richer and more powerful.  John’s just dumb enough to believe that ruling with an iron fist is the best way to get respect — exactly what the French king was counting on.  As a civil war begins to brew in England, the French gather up their swords and set sail for its shores, ready to divide and conquer.

But Robin’s since learned a secret about his own past that has inspired him to take a stand against the king and unite the people against the French.   You want respect, he tells John, you gotta earn it, yo.  And the best way to do that is to give the people MORE freedom, not less.  (Magna Carta, anyone?)  The king reluctantly agrees, promising his people that just as soon as the French are quashed, he’ll sign a treaty that restores more power to the citizenry.  But, of course, as soon as the French are put down, John reneges on his promise and declares Robin a traitor.

Robin retreats to the forest of Nottingham, and the film ends just where most Robin Hood stories begin — with “Robin of the Hood” an infamous outlaw, teamed up with Little John, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marion to battle the forces of evil and mete out justice their own way. (Cue Robin Hood Daffy to complete the saga in the very best of ways — “Ho ho and ha ha, eh?  I’ll ho ho and ha ha you, fat friar. . .!”)

Though it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Ridley Scott movie, cheesy dialogue and silly romance times bloody battle and male bonding plus one, I still found it really entertaining.  I enjoyed the characters, especially Blanchett as Marion (to be honest, I mostly just appreciated that they cast an older woman as the romantic lead instead of, say, Megan Fox), and also the historical elements, which were surprisingly not that inaccurate.

All in all, a darn good time and well worth a rental.  “Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!”  (For those who have no idea what I’m talking about:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZEcSgGKfQg.  And you’re welcome!)

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Action/Adventure
Cast:  Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy, Matthew Macfadyen

MOVIE: Prey (2006)

September 14, 2010

This movie surprised me by being fairly satisfyingly suspenseful.  It’s essentially Cujo set in the African desert:  a new stepmother (Bridget Moynahan) and her husband’s two kids find themselves stranded in a Jeep after their tour guide takes them off-road and promptly gets eaten by a lion.  The lions, having tasted the deliciousness of human blood, decide to hang out for a while and see if the Jeep’s other tasty snacks are dumb enough to venture out (spoiler: they are!).  Meanwhile, the husband/father teams up with a local hunter (not unlike the Quint character from Jaws) to try to track them down.

It’s not terribly original, of course, but it had many of the same elements that made Cujo fun for me:  a fear I could relate to (not so much with lions where I live, but certainly with other big cats, as well as, of course, the most terrifying beasts of all:  raccoons), authentic suspense, and fairly well-crafted/well-acted characters who create their own intriguing interpersonal drama when the lions are off napping or plotting.  Plus: gorgeous scenery!  And real lions!  Eep!

It’s not a brilliant film, but I definitely enjoyed watching it and would say it’s  well worth the rental fee if you like this sort of thing.  Bridget Moynahan, by the way, will be starring in a new TV show this fall called Blue Bloods (co-starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg — veritable ex-Boyfriendapalooza).  Having seen her in this flick, I’m looking forward to seeing what more she can do.

[Netflix it | Buy it at Amazon]

Genre:  Adventure
Cast:  Peter Weller, Bridget Moynahan, Carly Schroeder, Jamie Bartlett

BOOK: Into the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde (2009)

August 12, 2010

I love non-fiction books about women who go out into the wild and do amazing, daring stuff I would never do (“amazing, daring stuff I would never do” consisting of just about anything anybody does anywhere that can be classified as “the wild,” of course — coward!).

Many years ago, I read a great book in that category called Shooting the Boh, a non-fiction tale about author Tracy Johnston’s white water rafting trip down the Boh river in Borneo.  I found it absolutely riveting and have thought of it many times since (even just got my mom to read it recently — she loved it as well!).  So, when I saw this book highlighted on the “good summer reads” shelf at my local bookstore, I snatched it up, thinking it might be like a fictionalized version of Shooting the Boh.

And it is, sort of.  Except nowhere near as good, alas.  Into the Heart of the Canyon is definitely entertaining, but it’s also lacking in a lot of the emotional depth and exploration of Johnson’s book.  Which is weird, because the author of this novel, Elisabeth Hyde, was inspired to write it by her own rapid-running adventure; it’s not like she hasn’t had that inspirational, incredible experience herself.  Yet I think she missed what makes these kinds of stories so engaging.  Her book was far too focused on interactions between the characters, and not focused enough on the changes the characters experienced in themselves — and that just didn’t feel quite right to me.  It worked, I suppose, but it turned what seems like a natural personal growth story into a bit of a standard soap opera instead.

That said, this novel is definitely fun to read — it’s written well enough, and the rafting and camping/outdoorsy scenes were well drawn and engaging.  The story is about a group of people from a variety of backgrounds and ages, all brought together for a commercial river rafting trip — a one-week adventure, and an expensive one at that, featuring three boats, three guides, and all lodging (tents) and food (gourmet!) provided.

The separate characters are all of fairly standard types, though some of them do have surprising character shifts by the end:  the young 20-something male who develops a crush on the hot female raft guide, the elderly couple taking their last trip down the river together (the husband has developed Alzheimer’s), the middle-aged woman recovering from a divorce by taking herself on an adventure, the bickering couple with two young kids, and a mother who has dragged her teenage daughter Amy along on the trip in an attempt to bond with her.

Amy ends up being the focus of the story, for the most part, entries in her diary punctuating the ends of each chapter.  She’s morbidly obese and her diary entries painfully reminded me of my own when I was a kid — a lot of self-loathing directed at her body.  Hard, angry self-loathing.  It hit home so sharply in a few places it made me wonder if Hyde had been a “fat kid” herself when she was younger, as I was.  I’d love to see her write an entire novel focused just on that character, to be honest.  Or perhaps I’d love to see myself write that novel.

In any case, Amy is struggling the entire trip with painful stomach cramps, the origin of which we find out at the very end.  This subplot was kind of unnecessarily melodramatic and out-of-place in the story for me, though.  I’m not sure it added anything all that poignant, and it seemed more like an afterthought in some ways — a exit strategy designed to send the characters out with a bit of a bang.  A bang they didn’t really need, if you ask me.

Aside from that flaw, however, I found this novel pretty satisfying and it should appeal to anybody who likes reading these sorts of things.  Recommended to that group; the rest of you are probably better off reading something else.

[FICTION, ADVENTURE]

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MOVIE: Smoke Jumper (2008)

March 26, 2009

[Note:  The blog’s been quiet this week because I’m out of town for a meeting.  But I’m taking a few minutes to post this movie review because the reviews are starting to really pile up!  New Boyfriend write-up should be up mid-week next week, by the way.  Yay!]

I love cheesy disaster movies — flicks about twisters, tsunamis, earthquakes, and, of course, BIG FIRES.  And you know what?  So does my mom.  Man, I totally scored on the Mom Front, right?  Anyway, a couple of weekends ago, I was down hanging with my ‘Rents and this was one of the movies Mom and I picked up. (Incidentally, this movie is in the IMDb under the title Trial by Fire, even though it was clearly released on DVD under this other title.  That happens sometimes.  Not sure why.)

Surprisingly enough, it’s actually pretty good (by which I mean, “good” for a made-for-TV disaster movie — let’s keep this in perspective. . .).  It’s about a young woman firefighter who is blamed by her squad when she’s the last person to see her firefighter-father alive in a burning building.  Of course, it wasn’t actually her fault he got killed, but the rest of the squad is made up of stupid misogynists, and they’ve been looking for a reason to push her out pretty much since her first day.  This excuse works great, and the next thing she knows, she’s grieving for the loss of her dad AND the loss of her career.

When she learns that the local smoke jumpers group is hiring (those are the firefighters who parachute in to fight forest fires), she decides to try out.  And from here forward, you can pretty much substitute the storyline from G.I. Jane to get the gist of the story (except plus fires and minus Viggo Mortensen in short-shorts, more’s the pity).   Woman defies odds, trains hard, kicks the physical requirement’s hiney, gets the job, meets resistance, saves someone’s ass to prove she’s worthy, is finally accepted.

So, yeah, the story isn’t all that original, really, but overall, the movie is pretty entertaining and well-acted.  Plus:  cute firefighters in uniform.  Bonus!

Anyway, if you like the cheap thrills a disaster movie provides, you might consider checking this one out.  I’ve seen worse forest fire movies, that’s for sure.  In fact, I remember one in which one character broke their leg in one scene and was shown walking normally — not even a limp! — in the next.   Oh yeah, and in that same movie, the bad guy caught on fire and then was later shown wearing the same clothes, completely unscathed.  Nice trick, bad guy!  This one at least scores points for continuity, even though that also makes it a bit short on unintentional laughs (which, obviously, is something I thoroughly enjoy).  But yeah, if you like these kinds of things, you’ll probably like this one too.  Check it out.

[View trailer | Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Adventure, Disaster
Cast:  Brooke Burns, Rick Ravanello, Robert Moloney

MOVIE: Touch the Top of the World (2006)

March 18, 2009

Based on the memoir of the same name, this entertaining made-for-TV movie is about the first blind man (Erik Weihenmayer) to summit on Mount Everest.  The story begins with his childhood, when a rare eye disease began to gradually take his sight from him.  By the time he was a teenager, Erik was completely blind.  A meeting with a blind wrestler inspired him to continue to pursue his love of sports, and it wasn’t long before he began to try (and then excel at!) climbing as well.

After several successful summits of other mountains, Erik was encouraged by friends to give Mt. Everest a try.  With the help of some incredibly awesome buddies, and the financial support of blind people all over the world, Erik sets out for the toughest climb of his life, overcoming insurmountable odds and finally making it to the top of the world.

This movie is obviously a made-for-TV flick — the scenery is pretty fake in a number of places, and there are notable pauses in the story where you can tell there was a commercial break planned.  But the acting is wonderful (especially from Facinelli and Bruce Campbell, who plays Erik’s very supportive father) and the story is inspiring and well-organized.

I love movies (and books!) about climbers.  It’s a sport I find utterly insane, but at the same time, I’m absolutely mesmerized by tales  about it.  It takes a special something to want to climb Mt. Everest, I think.  (Whether it’s a good something or a bad something is debatable.)  But whatever it is, I don’t have it.  And sometimes when I see movies like this I think maybe I wish I did. (You know, until the ubiquitous scene in which the climbers start puking their guts out (or worse!) from altitude sickness.  Then I go back to considering them  insane.)

In any case, Erik’s story is pretty damn cool, and after having seen this film, I’m definitely planning to read Weihenmayer’s memoir soon.  Recommended!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Adventure, Non-Fiction
Cast:  Peter Facinelli, Bruce Campbell, Kate Greenhouse

MOVIE: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

November 6, 2008

indycrystalThis is another one of the movies I watched with my Mom a couple of weekends ago.  I just hadn’t had time to write about it, and wanted to blog horror for a bit in celebration of Halloween.

But now here I am, ready to tell you all about it.  And here’s what I have to say in a nutshell:  I know what you thought of this movie, and you are all a bunch of jaded stinkos for thinking it.  Yes, I recognize that this is not a brilliant film.  I recognize that Harrison Ford looked old and didn’t act all that well in it.  Yes, I know — ALIEN SKULLS.

But you know what?  I DON’T CARE.

There is absolutely no excuse for not seeing this movie if you’ve seen the other three.  You can’t just NOT SEE IT simply because you know it’s not going to be great.  Because you saw Temple of Doom, and it wasn’t great either (though I do loves me some good monkey brains), and what’s more, you’ve probably seen it at least TWELVE TIMES now.  So get off your high horse and go rent the damn new one.

If nothing else, I think you will enjoy Mutt, who plays Jones’s sidekick in this one — I did, anyway.  When it was over, in fact, I was thinking how much fun it would be to have an Indy Jr. series, where Mutt takes over where IndyDad left off and the adventures continue.

[Um, and here’s where I hit “Post” instead of “Save” and published the above without even reading it over first — whoops!  Guess I’ll just leave it like this!]

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Drama, Adventure
Cast:  Harrison Ford, Karen Allen (still a Hottie McHotterson!), Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf.