Tag Archives: War

Starship Troopers, American movie (1997)

Can you believe it? This is already the final requested review for my Science Fiction & Horror theme month. But that doesn’t mean that this is the end of the month itself though. There are still some reviews coming up, one that is kind of a request as well, but I don’t want to give that one away yet. (Although there is probably one person reading this that knows what I am talking about). Now, this review was requested by someone that I really think the world of and is truly special. I am talking about the astonishing Dani who has a blog that focusses on books. Even if you don’t like books, I still urge you to follow her anyway though. You know how some people can have a rough time in their lives, but still triumph in the end? Dani pretty much wrote the book on that. She is a powerhouse of a woman, that just spreads so much happyness and joy around with her reviews and comments, that you cannot help but smile. And considering all that she has been through, that is something that still amazes me to no end. My respect for her is enormous. Her positive attitude is something inspiring and if this hasn’t convinced you to follow her now, go and check out her amazing blog and you will know what I mean. Dani, my amazing and kindhearted beautiful friend, as you are so fond of saying: you rock! This review is for you!

The review

image
Hey look, it’s a giant erm….🤔🤔🤔

 

Yes, we humans are at it again. In the 23rd century we begin colonizing new planets and wouldn’t you know it, we of course encounter a hostile alien species. Well, at least we know that we humans are always very peaceloving beings right? So what do we do when we encounter something that is hostile? We of course squash it. And in this case that term is pretty relevant as this hostile alien race are a bunch of bugs. Only not the kind that you can trample underfoot. No, I’m talking about big giant bugs that are as big as houses, and a few that are even bigger than that. These Arachnids, as they become known, are hellbent on destroying our beautiful planet, and so we go to war! But for a war one usually needs soldiers. The Federation is the organisation that governs the Earth and in order to gain citizenship that grants special privileges one can for instance, enlist in the military. John “Johny” Rico decides to become a soldier against his parents wishes. His girlfriend Carmen Ibanez and one of his best friends, Carl Jenkins soon join him in the Federal Service, together with Isabelle Flores (who secretly has a crush on Rico….awwwww). One of their first missions will sent them to the heart of the Arachnid race, their homeplanet Klendathu. And this is ofcourse going to be a peace of cake right? Erm…wrong. Soon John is about to find out that the human invasion force might have bitten of more than they can chew……

image
Taking selfies in the future can be very hazardous to your health.

Starship Troopers was directed by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, who is responsible for such science fiction classics as Total Recall and Robocop. And most people that know his style will probably also know that he really isn’t one to handle things in a very subtle way so to speak. Extensive use of gore and sex/nudity are certainly some of his trademarks. One only has to watch Basic Instinct and you will get the picture. And this movie definitely isn’t an exception. In a pretty controversial scene we get a number of the male and female soldiers all taking a shower together, and yes they are naked. One has to wonder if this was a scene that was purely added to shock audiences or if it served any kind of purpose. But we have a film here that also is meant, in part at least, as a satire. The “benovelent” Federation, is little more than an institution that sends young people into a meatgrinder. But the way that is done, the propaganda it uses in for instance television commercials, is at times quite hilarious.

image
Iron Fist is in this film as well? That is so awesome!

Another thing that one has to note is the actors that are being used in the roles of soldiers. Casper van Dien, Denise Richards and Patrick Muldoon are all way to pretty to be playing at Gi-Joe/Gi-Jane. But this was also clearly the intention of Paul Verhoeven. The acting in this film is quite atrocious. It’s so wooden at times that there are some scenes that become unintentionally funny. But in amongst the youngsters are luckily a few veterans such as Michael Ironside and Clancy Brown. Both of them have some fun parts in playing veteran soldiers that work as drill instructors, that try to get the new men and women into shape. Casper van Dien plays the hero of the movie, John “Johny” Rico (seriously who came up with that name), and he is just likeable enough to carry you through the film. Actress Dina Meyer’s character Isabelle, is one of the characters that you will like the most. She plays the tough woman soldier that kind of kicks ass, but also has a weakness, her love for Johny.

image
Hi! Now I am here to give you some make up tips before you head off to war.

But where this movie excells at is the fights against the Arachnids. While I am not quite convinced by the special effects they used for the shots in space , they more than make up for this in the way they depict the bugs. Usually with films like these you see the monsters in total darkness. Here though, we get fight sequences in full daylight, that not only look enormously convincing, but are also highly entertaining. The multiple different species of Arachnids are definitely the highlight of this film. The fights are bloody and very gory, and we get to see people that literally get torn apart by these nasty critters. As such it is definitely not a movie that is for the faint of heart, or when you are easily shocked by violence. But, it has to be said, this is a war movie. And even though we are of course talking about a fictional war against an inhuman species, it’s still a war. And war is never pretty, no matter which way you look at it. And this comes across perfectly as Starship Troopers doesn’t pull any punches on that front.

image
You have a metal hand? That is just disgusting. Get away from me!

So is Starship Troopers a film that is worth seeing? Well…..hell yes! I’m not going to lie here, this won’t be a film that pleases everyone. There is enough stuff in this film that probably will have some people raise their eyebrows, especially considering the acting involved and the extensive use of excessive gore and violence. But if one is willing to look beyond that, and enjoy the film for what it is, you will have a blast. This is just a solid peace of sciencefiction action film making, with cool creatures and some incredibly well made special effects fight sequences. Considering this film is now over 20 years old (seriously where does the time go), it is one of those nice and cool cultclassics, that will always be fun to watch. And I also like the fact that this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously either. Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to go find me some bugs to squash. Naw….not really. Unless they are wasps that is…..

I give Starship Troopers a 8 out of 10 score.

Advertisements

Girls und Panzer, Anime tv series (2012)

Have you ever found yourself wanting to write a post, but you just don’t quite know where to start? This is one of them. I always like to start my reviews with an introduction that in some way relates to whatever I am reviewing, but this one……I really am at a loss for words. I have promised to do a review for Girls und Panzer for a very long time, and now that the moment is finally there, I am stalling and buying time. And, not quite succeeding at that either, am I? So why is this so hard? Well….unless I am mistaking I don’t think there currently is a place in the world where the sport of Tankery is being held. What’s that: Raistlin writing a post on a sports anime? What kind of black sorcery is this?  As most of you might know: I absolutely hate sports, of any kind. I don’t practice sports, I don’t watch sports, and Ugh….I am rambling again. Anyways, if I could participate in a game of Tankery though: you can count me in. Phew. Well, I am finally past the starting point. Time to start the review in earnest….now, where do I start? Oh yeah, you would like to know what this show is about right?

image
Yes, there really is a pink tank in this picture.

Girls und Panzer takes us to a world where World War II tanks are maintained to be used in the sporting event known as Tankery. In this brutal, but at the same time relatively safe competition, girls from different highschools fight each other on battlefields in order to reach the finals and claim victory. Miho Nishizumi is a girl that comes from a very prestigious family that has been practicing Tankery for many years. But in a previous competition something happened to Miho, that causes her to become traumatised and not wanting to continue practicing the sport. Having transferred to a new Academy school ship that she believes doesn’t have Tankery on their list of activities, Miho tries to pick up her life. On her first day at the new school she has already made some new friends, and really begins to believe that life is good again. But, little does she know that the school has added the sport she fears so much back on the roster. Eventually Miho, as the only one who has had any previous experience with Tankery, is pressured into helping the other school girls. Together with her new friends, Nishiszumi enters the competition where she will face a lot of new challenges. The biggest one being, coming to terms with the life she thought she had left behind….

image
Sometimes it can be really hard to find a good parking space. 

There are times when you put on a show and literally after seeing the very first scene it just clicks for you. This is one of those shows. Girls und Panzer is a series that is just pure and simple fun. One of the things I love most about anime is the sometimes completely unique concepts it can come up with. I mean really, think about this for a second. How on Earth do you come up with a plot like this: cute highschool girls driving World War II tanks. But not only does it work, it is one of those animes that you can’t help but smile at. It’s really…well cute. And that’s weird for a series that has brutal tank battles in it. But let me just get that out of the way first. Girls und Panzer is a comedy series. In no way is all of this to be taken seriously. There is no blood, and nor are the girls ever in a real life or death battle. Ofcourse no sporting event comes without it’s risk of injury, and Tankery is no different. And yes people, you read that right, not only am I reviewing a sports anime, but it’s a comedy as well. Really, I must have been hit on the head or something.

image
Let’s all join in dancing here! Because really that’s what you do in a battle!

Honestly though this is not a slapstick comedy. There are some really funny scenes, but it’s not the kind of humor that is cringeworthy. And that said, the highlight of this series is most certainly the sport of Tankery itself. The tank battles are seriously awesome to watch. Using computertechniques to bring them to life, they are the absolute highlight of this anime. You would think that at some point battles like that will become very tedious, but let me assure that is not the case. Every event is unique, and just like watching an exciting football match featuring your favorite team, you will really hold your breath each time Miho enters a new battle with her friends. You really want them to win, and when they do you will find yourself raising your fist in the air and shouting at the top of your lungs along with the fictional crowd. Erm, or maybe that is just me. Storywise, there really isn’t much more to it than the girls trying to reach the finals. There are a few subplots here and there, but overall the focus is on Tankery. In other animes that might get quite boring, but this anime never has that problem.

image
Yes, military uniforms have certainly come a long way since the war. 

There is something that is a bit of a problem and that is the huge cast this series has. I am not kidding here, but this anime has over 50 different characters. While the focus is definitely on Miho and her friends, all the others make appearances in several episodes as well. It will probably not come as a very huge surprise to you that character development isn’t very high on the agenda. But to it’s credit, despite that fact, each character does have it’s own distinguishing marks. I, however did have some trouble in keeping some of the cast members apart from each other. With a cast this huge everyone will probably have a favorite, and for me that was Mako Reizei. It felt like she was continually sleeping through everything (well, she always had trouble getting up early in the morning), and her voice never gets excited even in the face of danger. This causes some very funny scenes, where for example the rest of the girls are going completely nuts, and she just keeps talking with her monotone voice.

image
Some people take the order to fire a bit too literally. 

Another thing that is worth mentioning is the soundtrack. The background music at times sounds like the ones you had in old World War II movies, and it fits this anime perfectly. Together with the world that is created in this series, it manages to create a very unique experience. Girls und Panzer is an anime you need to watch when you want to take a break from all the heavy stuff. It is simply put a very charming show, that I pretty much dare you not to be entertained by. What it might lack in terms of storyline and character development, it more than makes up for in the excitement and fun factor. Unless you are a very cynical person that is completely devoid of any emotion, you will be put under it’s spell right from the beginning. Girls und Panzer has been a joy to watch, even though this is certainly a series that is miles away from the shows that I usually see. Panzer vor!

I give Girls und Panzer a 8 out of 10 score.

The Sky Crawlers, Japanese (animated) movie (2008)

In a little over two months I’m going to turn 42. Even though I don’t consider myself old in any way, it has been quite a while since I left my childhood behind me (although I still feel like a kid pretty much every day). While being an adult certainly has had it’s ups and downs, I could also say the same about when I was a kid. But I honestly have no real complaints about my childhood. In fact it was a time where I really had much less to worry about, then I sometimes do right now. But would I have wanted to stay a kid forever? Hell to the no. While the prospect of eternal life might sound appealing, in no way would I want to spent it as a teenager. So why am I talking about all this? Last year I bought a movie I have been wanting to see for quite a long time. Directed by Mamoru Oshii, the acclaimed director of the original Ghost in the Shell movie, The Sky Crawlers is a film that deals with the subject of kids. But kids that never age…

image
Hmm…..drinking and smoking isn’t very good for your health, you know that right?

Exactly in which time frame The Sky Crawlers takes place is very hard to describe. Suffice it to say that it’s an alternate timeline where the world seems to be at peace, but as usual the human race can’t live completely without war. In order to release these tensions, private companies enlist fighter pilots that take to the skies and fight each other in real aerial combat engagements. The Rostock Corporation is one of these companies and has just lost three of their pilots at the hands of the ace pilot “The Teacher” that works for rival company Lautern. Shortly thereafter Yuichi Kannami arrives at the Rostock base having just been assigned there. Yuichi is a Kildren, a genetically engineered humanoid that will never grow beyond adolescence. The only thing he lives for is going up in his plane and fighting in these wars. It’s also just about the only thing that can get him killed. The base commander, Suito Kusanagi, herself also a Kildren, is shrouded in mystery. There are rumors flying around the base that she shot Yuichi’s predecessor. But no one knows what happened for sure. Yuichi’s own relationship with Suito is beginning to grow however. But the shadow of war, and the uncertainties of his own existence are beginning to take it’s toll on the mind of young Yuichi…

image
I wish I owned a plane like that. It would beat walking to work.

The Sky Crawlers is a movie that is pretty hard to review. A challenge has never stopped me before though, so I am not about to do so now. This movie is a completely different movie than I expected it to be. If you think this is a full on action film, where the focus lies on aerial combat, you had better look someplace else. This two hour long movie has about 15 minutes of scenes like that, but that’s just about it. But it really has to be said, these scenes are breathtaking to look at. Brought in crystal clear 3D the dogfights between the incredibly beautifully designed fighter-planes are amazing to behold. They are tense, dangerous and the sounds that accompany them put you pretty much right in the middle of them, as if you were there yourself. But this being a Mamoru Oshii film, the story has many more layers to it than you might expect the first time that you see it. It’s one of those stories that really gets you to think about stuff, and those usually are the best kinds of tales.

image
I think it might be a good idea to take cover. Just an idea, mind you.

This is, I’m not going to lie, a pretty bleak and depressing film. We are dealing with kids here that never grow old, and whose only purpose in life seems to be fighting wars. The time in between fights is spent in bars, or visiting prostitutes, but in no way do their lives ever seem to have a small spark of happyness. The two main characters, Yuichi and Suito are therefore very hard to grow attached to. Even though they seem to develop feelings for each other, that relationship is only causing grief, which is depicted in sometimes very sad scenes. I have always said that it’s hard to like a film, when you don’t care for what happens to the main characters. But here, it seems to really support the story and the vibe that the director is going for. This is also a very slow film. Most of the time is spent on the ground and trying to really bring the deeper underlying storylines to the front, but I can also understand that this might try the patience of some viewers.

image
I did say the planes were very cool did I not?

A big reason for me to buy this movie, besides it being directed by Oshii, is that the music for it was composed by Kenji Kawaii. I wrote a post about this man’s brilliance last year (if you have missed that one you can find it right here), and he again manages to compose an absolutely breathtaking score. The main theme for the film is especially beautiful and I have included it below for your listening pleasure. So what did I think of this movie? As I mentioned in the beginning this is a very hard film to review. While I respect and also understand what Oshii is trying to do here, some moments in the movie felt pretty longwinded. It will also not make you a really happy camper so to speak. But I really can’t help but saying, this is still a very beautiful film. The story will keep you thinking long after the credits have rolled (and do keep watching, because there is a very important after credits scene), and both the animation and music are absolutely amazing. If you don’t mind slow films, and are able to handle movies that feature a quite depressing atmosphere, this one is worth checking out.

I give The Sky Crawlers a 8 out of 10 score.

Underworld: Blood Wars, American movie (2016)

Some movie franchises just seem to go on and on without ever having an end in sight. No matter how bad some of the sequels to the original movie have become, they just keep pumping out new films. This seems to be especially true for horrormovies. There is a certain market for B-movie type films, that fans just can’t seem to get enough of. The Underworld franchise started way back in 2003. Underworld told the story of a great war between the Vampires and Lycans (Werewolves) that has raged for thousands of years. It was a very classy film, with some seriously cool fight sequences, lot’s of leather, and a great lead actress in the form of Kate Beckinsale that played the 1000 year old Death Dealer Vampire Selene. And just like that, fourteen years later we now have a fifth installment, that even leaves the door open for yet another sequel. Have these movies been entertaining though? Well, quite frankly, yes. Sure, the first film was definitely the best, but these follow up films all still had some nice things in them, that made them worthwhile watches. Especially if you like these kind of movies. So, what about this one? Is it any good, or do we just need to put it into the sunlight and let it burn up?

image
I think you have got something stuck between your teeth. Here, let me help you. 

Underworld Blood Wars continues the storyline from the fourth film. The Vampires are on the verge of losing the war against their enemies the Lycans. Only the Eastern Coven still stands strong and one of their members, the beautiful Semira believes their salvation may lie with the Death Dealer Selene. But Selene has been outcast for years, and most of the other Vampires want to see her dead. She convinces Thomas, one of the Vampire elders, to go the council in order to try to persuade them to grant Selene clemency. In this way she hopes Selene can return to train a new generation of Death Dealers. Meanwhile the Lycans, now under the command of the powerful Marius, are also searching for Selene. They want to use her to find her daughter Eve, whose blood may contain the secrets of building an army of Lycan/Vampire hybrids. With all the players setting up their pieces on the board, Selene finds herself right in the middle of a very deadly game. With betrayal seeming to run rampant on both sides, Selene has to find a way to survive. But this is easier said than done, especially when she is set up for a crime which she did not commit…

image
Enough with those Vampire puns already, come on!

Well, let’s put a stake through the heart of this review and get down to the most important aspect of it. This was Underworld’s weakest installment to date, and one really has to wonder if this franchise has not run out of steam. The story is basically non-existent. All we get is a long chase movie that moves from fight sequence to fight sequence, with little to no surprises. One of the things I did like is the fact that the story introduced a new coven of Vampires that live in the icy northern wastes. Without giving away spoilers, suffice it to say that they are entirely different from the Vampires we have come to known in Underworld. The action scenes in this movie were also not as good as in the previous films. But that said there is a seriously cool fight between Marius and Selene on the ice, that really is well worth seeing and one of the highlights of the film. Other than that the rest of the fights just lack that special wow factor which is a bit of a shame.

image
If you mention that I played in Divergent, I will kill you. 

But the saving grace of this film is definitely actress Kate Beckinsale. Now playing the role of Selene for the fourth time, she is still every bit as strongwilled and fearsome as when she first started playing the character. And without sounding like a sexist pig, Kate is just incredibly sexy and feminine in the leather outfits she has always worn throughout these films. Selene’s character has really grown over the years and at the end of this movie, you will find yourself surprised in what she has become. (One of the few surprises this film has on offer). Something that you might not expect in a movie such as this is the high level of acting. Kate does a terrific job, but so does veteran actor Charles Dance reprising his role as Thomas. You can just see the fun he is having in playing this role. Semira is a deliciously wicked character that is brought to life in a splendid way by actress Lara Pulver. One of the more unpredictable characters of the film, I really enjoyed seeing her playing out her part, and I would have loved to have seen more of her.

image
Sometimes no words are necessary, this picture pretty much speaks for itself. 

Underworld Blood Wars is a movie that ended up being a bit of a disappointment. I would not call the film a total disaster, there are obviously worse films out there. But having enjoyed all the other movies in this franchise, this one was really a bit of a letdown. As mentioned in the beginning, there is still room for a sequel to this one, and I would not be surprised if that is going to happen. But they would have to come up with a real good script to end Selene’s journey in a satisfactory way. If you are not a fan of Underworld, this movie is not going to change your mind. But if you are, despite it’s many flaws, I still think you should watch it. If only to see the lovely Kate in action for what might just be her final appearance as Selene. Just don’t set your expectation levels to the highest settings though.

I give Underworld Blood Wars a 6 out of 10 score.

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, American movie (2017)

I’m not a very happy man right now. In fact I’m pretty much at a loss for words and don’t even know where to start or how to write this post. This is probably going to be one of the hardest reviews that I have ever written since I started blogging. And it is all for a new movie in the science fiction franchise that I have loved for so many years. Today though, The Last Jedi, managed to really destroy the saga with a film that was destined to divide the Star Wars fan base community. I’m sorry to say that I am on the dark side here by stating that I really hated this movie. There…I have said it. I don’t think after all these years of watching movies, that I have ever been filled with more anger towards a film than for this one. I am also going to be breaking protocol here by writing a spoiler filled review for the first time in the history of this blog. It is really the only way to explain why I am feeling so much anger inside….and yes I know, I did hear Yoda’s words. Anger eventually leads to the Dark Side. Beware, this is a very different review by me than you are used to. It really is going to be a rant so if you are (force) sensitive to these sort of things, you can still turn away.

image
Is it me, or do these things look like giant monkeys?

***!!!Spoilers Begin!!!***

So this movie pretty much picks up where The Force Awakens ended. The Rebellion is on the run and The First Order have somehow taken over the entire galaxy all of a sudden. (Which is kind of odd, seeing as they only had one base to begin with, which was destroyed in the last movie). But I’m willing to overlook that part. After episode VII fans were left with a lot of burning questions, chief amongst them being who is Snoke, and who are Rey’s parents? Let’s start with Snoke first. He is set up to be an extremely powerful villain, who has force powers that seem to be even stronger than those of The Emperor. So just who is this evil being? Well….who cares director Rian Johnson must have thought as he gets killed by Kylo Ren turning a lightsaber on him. I was completely stunned when this happened. Why introduce a seriously sinister and mysterious villain, that had fans speculating over his origins for months only to just kill him off in a single stroke? And without ever finding out who he was and how he came to be this all powerful figurehead?

image
I know I look old to you, but really you don’t have to be rude about it and close your eyes.

Okay, right….so Rian is surely going to redeem himself by answering the question to who Rey’s parents were right? Erm…..wrong. Rey’s parents were, drumroll please: nobodies. Simply drunken scavengers that sold Rey off to slavers. Which means Rey herself is a nobody as well, and has no apparent bloodline to any famous force sensitive families. That’s what they came up with? Really? Great job, truly and utterly spectacular script writing. How on Earth is Rey able to do all the things that she is doing? It really makes no sense whatsoever. I had some hopes left, and those were centered on Luke and Leia. To be fair, both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher played their parts beautifully. There is a truly heartbreaking scene near the end of the movie in which brother and sister are reunited, and that one really gave me some goosebumps. But the old heroic Luke we came to know and love as fans is gone for most of the film. In his place is a cynical and whiny old man that wants nothing to do with any of the Rebellion’s problems. And after everything he went through in Episodes IV-VI, his change in personality, despite the cause that triggered it, seems too far fetched for me. And of course just because he can, Rian decides to kill off Luke as well.

image
Look, my lightsaber is still shiny and red!

Remember Yoda saying after Luke left before completing his training in Empire that there was another? We later learn that he was talking about Leia of course, but she never got Jedi training. But what happens in this movie? After getting blown into outer space, she survives in a cold hard vacuum, flies like Supergirl and pulls herself to safety by using the Force. A feat that to my knowledge not even the most powerful Jedi were able to do. I could go on but really, you get my drift. This movie is just so full of plotholes like these, that not even a Jedi mindtrick is able to save it. Are there no positive things in this movie? Well, that would be too harsh a judgement, and also not fair. Oscar Isaac, echoing his own character’s words is the fire that really shines in this film. Poe Dameron has a much bigger role in this movie than in the Force Awakens and he really has become one of my alltime favorite Star Wars characters. He truly is both a hero and rebel in the biggest sense of those words.

image
Chewie and Porg, the new talkshow coming to you soon!

In true Star Wars fashion we get a couple of grand battle scenes, and the fight near the end of the film really is one of the best in the franchise. And then of course there is at least one villain in this film that still is every bit as interesting as he was in the first movie: Kylo Ren. Adam Driver portraying the character does an amazing job in bringing his conflict to life. The fun thing about Kylo is that you never really know what his next move will be. Is he truly evil, or is there still light in him? It is a question that I think he can’t even answer himself, and that is what makes him such a really fun and scary character. From a visual point of view the movie really looks amazing. The special effects are really top notch but never become too much like a few scenes that were in the prequels. Last but not least we get the Porgs, a new and quite loveable race of beings that provide some truly entertaining scenes that had me roaring with laughter.

image
Yep, this face pretty much sums up how I felt after leaving the theatre yesterday.

***Spoilers End***

So, there we have it, the first true rant that I ever had on my blog and for a movie that I had been looking forward to for two years now. Ever since leaving the theatre yesterday afternoon I have been thinking that there is something that I have missed in some way. That I am somehow being too harsh. But then I looked over on IMDB and saw the responses and reviews the movie is getting and I know now that I am not alone in this. As all of you know, at least everyone that has been reading my blog for a while now, I always respect other people’s opinions. So if you loved the film, I think that is great. With this film though for me Star Wars has turned into a new direction that I just don’t like. It has ripped out the heart of what made Star Wars so much fun in the first place, and what is left into it’s place is something rather cold. I don’t know if the magic is completely snuffed out now. Only time will tell I guess. I also know that this review is maybe going to cause a great disturbance in the Force amongst some of you. For that I am sorry. Know that in no way I wish to offend anyone here, it is simply my take on the film. Never would I want to force (push) my opinion on you.

I give Star Wars Episode VIII a heartbroken 4 out 10 score.

 

 

 

 

Star Wars episode IV: A New Hope, American movie (1977)

There are some stories in this world that are kind of hard to believe. Take the Star Wars franchise for instance. No matter the fact if you love it or hate it, I think nobody can deny the fact that it’s incredibly popular and makes a ton of money. But did you know that director George Lucas had an incredibly hard time to even get a funding for the first movie in that galaxy far, far away? After writing a 13 page treatment for it, he went from studio to studio, but pretty much no one believed that this was a movie that would attract an audience. After getting declined numerous times, Lucas finally got a green light from 20th Century Fox. But he only got a very small budget with which to make the movie. After many hardships during filming, including suffering a near heart attack, Lucas managed to complete his film. When the movie was finally released in 1977 it blew everything that had come before it completely away and became a huge success. It never fails to make me smile when I think about this story, as it is proof that pretty much everything is possible as long as you keep believing in it.

image
You seem to have trouble talking. Is it something I did?

Now 40 years later, Star Wars is still going strong with no end in sight. This week the eagerly awaited eight installment of the franchise will be released. I have already got my tickets, although I still have to wait a few days, as I will be seeing it on saturday morning. Which means that I have got to avoid social media the upcoming days in order to not come across spoilers. It’s only fitting to conclude my Countdown to the Last Jedi feature with the movie that started it all, Episode IV, A New Hope. Probably most of you know the story of this film by heart, but for the few unlucky souls that have never seen this one, let me break it down for you. In a galaxy far, far away an evil Empire has grown that holds everyone in an iron grip. With the creation of a new weapon, a planet killer called the Death Star, it seems the Empire is ready to snuff out the final rays of light. But there is always hope. A rebellion has grown that has managed to steal the technical plans of this new terrorweapon. The plans are currently in possession of Princess Leia, who is racing home to try and find a weakness in the Death Star. But the Empire’s brutal enforcer Darth Vader is in hot pursuit with the sole purpose of extinquishing the rebellion once and for all….

image
That’s no moon, it’s erm…..I don’t really know actually.

I was one year old when this movie came out, so I never saw it in the theatres when it was released. I of course did see it at a later age, when the special editions came out and the movies were brought back to the cinema. But the experience could never rival what movie audiences at that time must have felt. These days we are not easily surprised anymore by special effects. But imagine the reaction people must have had when that Star Destroyer came into view for the first time in 1977. Movies that featured that level of special effects were completely unheard of at that time. And in that way it pretty much changed the movie industry overnight. Rival companies were trying to play catch up and released science fiction movies that tried to copy what Star Wars did. With a few exceptions, most of these attempts failed. So what exactly made this movie so special, and why has it captured the hearts and minds of so many people?

image
Your hair looks really ridiculous you know that right?

Yes, the special effects were mind boggling, and even though they are now showing their age, they still hold up very well even today. But for me it’s the story and the characters that form the main reason why I love this movie so very much. It’s the ultimate epic tale of good versus evil. Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and of course the classic actor Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi, all of them did such an amazing job in creating wonderful and heartwarming characters. When you look at this movie now, it’s amazing how young they all look. I don’t know if this makes me old or something, but it’s just incredible when you realise that time seriously is flying by faster than the Millenium Falcon on lightspeed. But let’s not get off track here. For another reason this movie is so memorable is it’s main villain: Darth Vader. The first time he enters the screen you can’t help but feel intimidated. He is the very personification of evil, and it oozes out from him in every way. For me he simply is the best villain in movie history.

image
We are all going to be made into action figures? You are kidding me right?

When it comes to Star Wars it is really hard to stay objective. I have been a fan of this franchise ever since I saw that memorable opening crawl on my television screen for the first time. It is also hard to believe that after 40 years we will again see Mark Hamill reprise his role for which he has been famous all his life. No one yet knows what is in store for Luke, but I will be awaiting with anticipation that is bigger than a Womp Rat, I can tell you that. For those of you that have not seen this first film I can only say that I envy you. To experience a movie like this for the first time is something truly amazing. And yes, in case you were wondering this really is the movie you should start with first. I know it’s called Episode IV, but this was the very first installment. (Even though Episodes I-III were released much later, but that is a story for another time). A New Hope is an amazing piece of cinema, and a movie that you simply must see at least once in your life. And so we have reached the end of this feature. I leave you with the original trailer for the movie, and for those of you that are going to the cinema the coming days to see Episode VIII: May the Force be with you!

I give Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope a 10 out of 10 score.

Sisters of Battle, a Warhammer 40000 novel by James Swallow (2017)

Imagine a grim and dark universe that only has one thing on it’s mind: war. Not a very bright thing to look forward to is it? But it has been the setting for decades for a tabletop game called Warhammer 40.000. In that game players battle each other with fictional armies of painted miniatures. Taking place in the 41st Millenium (talk about a time jump), it is one of the most detailed science fiction universes ever created. With literally thousands of novels and sourcebooks that tell the tales of the men, women and aliens that are living in there, it can be very overwhelming for people that are not familiar with it. In this far future, mankind has taken to the stars and have created an Imperium that consists of thousands of planets. Humanity is led by The Emperor that was mortally wounded in a great war called the Horus Heresy. He now permanently resides on Terra where he is kept alive on The Golden Throne. In his name vast armies of Space Marines take the fight to enemies ranking from aliens to horrifying demons.

image
Yup…..we get girlpower now!

I myself have never played the game, but I really love the stories that are written for this universe. I have a pretty big collection of books in this range, and most of these tell the accounts of the soldiers of the Imperium, the superhuman Space Marines. That’s why it was very refreshing to find a novel that does something entirely different. It brings girlpower to this male dominated universe! The Sisters of Battle Omnibus features four stories that focus on the women soldiers also known as the Adepta Sororitas. Fanatically loyal to the Emperor, these women are not supersoldiers or enhanced in any way. But what they may lack in strength, they more than make up for with their courage and faith. In this omnibus we get introduced to Sister Miriya, who has become one of my favorite Warhammer 40.000 characters. Raven haired, headstrong but courageous to a fault she is an absolute delight and a true heroine.

image
One of the more horrifying enemies that lurk in this book: The Necron.

The second main character of this book is Sister Verity, who is not a soldier but a medic and almost the complete opposite of Miriya. Where the former is of the type to shoot first and ask questions later, Verity always tries to reason through everything and is an incredibly kind soul that always sees the best in people. This unlikely pair soon become vast friends, and are going to have to face some true challenges. The four stories that make up this omnibus are all good, but my two favorites have got to be the two novella length ones. In Faith and Fire the two Sisters are going after a rogue psyker that has killed Verity’s real sister, and is responsible for the death of countless other humans. But soon it becomes clear that there is something far more sinister going on. In Hammer and Anvil Miriya and Verity land on a planet that contains an outpost from the Adepta Sororitas that has been silent for years. No one really knows what transpired there, but the truth is more horrifying than both could ever have imagined.

image
Who would argue with a woman like this?

James Swallow, the author of all four stories, has really outdone himself. This collection comes running out of the gates, and never once becomes boring in any way. There are some great battlescenes, terrific characters (both heroes and enemies) but there is also enough time amidst all the carnage to tell some great tales. If you have never before experienced the Warhammer 40.000 universe this omnibus certainly is a great way to enter it. As it features a branch of The Imperium that hasn’t been featured in many other novels yet, you need no real other knowledge to enjoy this book. If you love military science fiction, that has fast paced action and interesting characters I highly recommend checking this one out. It really was a great read from start to finish, and one of the best novels that I have read all year. And really, who can resist an awesome cover like that!

I give Sisters of Battle a 9 out of 10 score.

Call of Heroes, Chinese movie (2016)

I think that pretty much everyone has heard the name Bruce Lee at some point in their lives. Considered by many to be the greatest martial artist that has ever lived, he has made a couple of legendary Hong Kong actionmovies. As many of you know I am a huge Asian movie buff, but I discovered the Asian martial arts genre pretty late. And it wasn’t actually Bruce Lee that introduced me to it, but an equally famous actor, namely Jackie Chan. I have seen many of the old Jackie Chan flicks, and enjoyed them an awful lot. Police Story, Armour of God, Drunken Master, are just a couple of examples of his movies that I really liked. When you really love something though, you try to find out more about it, and eventually I discovered there were a lot of other gems in this volatile genre. These days martial arts movies are made in almost every country, not only Asia. But for some reason I just think the best of these type of films are still coming out of China. That’s not to say that all of these movies are good though.

image
Some people have just watched Indiana Jones a bit too much. 

Call of Heroes takes place in the past, right after the dissolution of the Qing Dynasty. The land is being torn apart by a bunch of military governates that are trying to seize power. The ruthless Marshal Cho, who is a son of one of these military governors, travels across the country killing people indiscriminately. At one point he ends up in the village of Pucheng where he kills three people, one of them a young boy. Soon after he is arrested by Colonel Yeung, who is the leader of the town militia, and sentenced to death. As can be expected, his father doesn’t really take kindly to this, and orders him to be released. If they fail to comply, the town will be destroyed. As the town is not capable of defending themselves against the might of an army, tensions are beginning to run high. The pressure on Yeung increases as the citizens of the town are afraid for their lives, and want nothing more than to have Marshal Cho released. But then a mysterious stranger enters the town. This man could be the turning point of everything, but his intentions are unclear. Has he arrived to offer his help, or has he come for something more sinister? Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking and the time for Pucheng is running out……

image
If not for the fight scenes, this image almost sums up my thoughts for this movie. 

Call of Heroes is one of those movies that really doesn’t know what it wants to be. At the start of the movie, you think it’s a comedy (albeit a very bad one, with seriously cringeworthy humor). Then all of a sudden it switches gears and turns into a Western. Or at least something that tries to be a Western. And then we all of a sudden get a very brutal action movie. And I do mean brutal. Because when Marshall Cho begins to kill, the deaths he causes are quite horrific and unexpected. I don’t mind it when a movie blends together different genres, in fact if done right it usually makes for an interesting watch. Here though the execution is done very poorly and as an audience you are just unprepared to take some of the scenes seriously. Especially since a minute ago you supposedly had to laugh at a few of the slapstick jokes that were fired at you.

image
Noooo….I just bought that furniture!

And then there is the acting. Marshal Cho is played by Louis Koo. Now I have seen him in a few relatively minor roles before, but he clearly is out of his league here. His overacting in trying to make Cho a menacing character just doesn’t work. His maniacal laughing gets on your nerves every time he does it, and instead of fearing him, you just end up thinking of him as a very annoying and quite frankly comical character. Marshal Yeung was one of the few characters that I really liked. Played by Sean Lau, he had a very calm and charismatic way of acting that made Yeung a character that you could really establish a connection with. Eddie Peng completes the triangle of main characters, by playing the role of the mysterious stranger. In the beginning of the movie his slapstick antics failed to impress, but his role did improve over the course of the film, and turned into something better. Veteran martial artist Wu Ying also has a small but decent role in the movie, and gets to showcase his talents in some great scenes.

image
Mortal Kombaaaaaattttttt!!!!!!!

And that brings us to a positive note that I can say about this movie, and that is the fight sequences. The fight choreagraphy is handled by the legendary Sammo Hung and for people who have some knowledge of the Hong Kong action movie genre this name should be very familiair. Sammo has certainly managed to produce a couple of terrific martial arts sequences, that at least managed to make make the movie not a total loss. Unfortunately though that is not enough for saving this movie from being a pretty disappointing watch. With the struggle this film has in trying to decide what it wants to be, as well as some truly over the top performances, it just isn’t a movie that I can recommend. The only reason that I did not grade the movie lower, was the fact that the martial arts on display, especially in two high caliber sequences, was pretty awesome. If you are a fan of Hong Kong action cinema you might want to give this one a go. Casual moviegoers though, had best avoid this one.

I give Call of Heroes a 5 out of 10 score.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, American movie (2015)

Earlier this week a trailer was released for a very small movie that is coming out in december. You have probably never heard of this film, but why not, let me just throw it out there in case you have: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. See? Told you that this is a pretty much unknown movie. Okay, all kidding aside: how awesome was that trailer! I will go into that a little bit more in depth below, but after I had seen it, it put me into the mood to rewatch Episode VII again, The Force Awakens. This film was responsible for relighting the fire that is Star Wars, not that it had ever gone out completely. With expectations going through the roof weeks before it’s release, one of the things that everyone was looking forward to, was the appearance of the original cast. Yes, classic characters like Han and Leia were back again, and fans at times broke out in tears at watching the trailers. (Not me of course, I am a man and I never cry….blinks back tears). But was the Force Awakens a good film, or merely a rehash of old things?

image
The first one who says my lightsaber looks like crap, is going to get it….

The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the Return of the Jedi. The Empire has been defeated, but instead of peace returning to the galaxy, a new threat has emerged. The First Order has risen from the ashes of what the Empire left behind, and is threatening to snuff out the last peaces of light that are remaining. The Resistance is desperately trying to find Luke Skywalker who nobody has seen for decades, but who they think might turn the tide of war. They have send one of their best pilots, Poe Dameron, to track down a lead for information as to where Luke might be hiding. But the First Order has tracked Poe down, and one of their most sinister agents, Kylo Ren, succeeds in capturing him. All hope now lies with Poe’s droid BB-8, in which he has hidden the clue to finding the Jedi Master. While on the run BB-8 soon encounters a young scavenger girl that goes by the name of Rey. She reluctantly agrees to help the droid, and together with a former stormtrooper they set out on the mission to find the Resistance. But the First Order is hot on their heals and this time this new hope for the galaxy, might be lost…..

image
Yeah, I know I look pretty good for an old nerfherder. 

The Force Awakens has been hated and loved in equal measures. The hate mostly came from people that said the movie was just a rewrite of the first original Star Wars movie. And I guess they do have a point. Just as in the first film, we have something hidden in a droid that becomes the focal point of the story. We have a Death Star like superweapon in the form of Star Killer Base, and of course we have an untrained person that is cast in the unlikely role of hero. So yes, there is certainly truth in that claim. But to dismiss it just based on that is pretty unfair. For there are also a lot of things that this movie did that were just plain awesome. The return of the old characters for instance. The first time you see Han Solo together with Chewie is just a goosebump inducing moment. And ofcourse that moment returns when you see Leia again, reunited with her scruffy looking love interest.

image
I really can’t believe that you are not a CGI effect.

But the new characters are also not to be excluded. Kylo Ren is one of, if not, the most interesting villain from the entire saga. He is not just a Darth Vader wannabe, a fact that is only enforced when he removes his helmet. Here we have a person that is conflicted throughout the entire movie. And that conflict comes to the fore in that scene, which I am not going to spoil, but for anyone who has seen the movie it should be pretty clear to which scene I am referring. And then there are Rey, the scavenger girl, and Finn the former stormtrooper. Both great characters in their own way. It is still completely unclear who Rey’s parents are, despite all the theories floating around on the web. It is exactly this fact that defines her character though. The unknown, the fact that she really as of yet has no clue to who she truly is. But she tries her utmost to become the hero though. Finn is the true antihero however. Right from the start he stands up to the injustice that surrounds him, and he almost pays the ultimate price for that. I could probably write another 1000 words for how much I enjoyed this film, but I am not going to do that. My final verdict for the film will follow soon enough, but let’s talk a bit about the new trailer.

image
I just had to include a picture that features the fastest hunt of junk in the galaxy. 

The Last Jedi trailer

Unless you have been captured by a Wampa this week, you must have seen the new trailer pop up somewhere on the web. Or a better word for it, is first trailer, as we had so far only seen a teaser for the new movie. And it was worth the wait. One thing this new trailer has been doing is messing with out heads. There are so many things going on that may or may not be true, that it almost makes your mind explode. Is Rey joining forces with Kylo? I myself doubt it. I believe, as a lot of people have said, that the scenes have been purposely blended together to make it look as if they are one scene. Or….it is real, and we are really in for a hell of a ride. One thing we can be sure of is that this film is going to be very hard on the forces of light. It all looks very spectacular, and I for one can’t wait for december. What are your thoughts on the new trailer? Let me know in the comments section below. And of course, just because I am a nice guy, I have included it below for your viewing pleasure.

The Verdict

But of course with the excitement building for Episode VIII let us not forget the movie that restarted this adventure in a galaxy far, far away. Yes, the film certainly may have lacked a bit of originality, you will not hear any argument from me for that. But this was a Star Wars film in every sense of the word, and a pretty damn good one at that. The terrific characters, the special effects that were mostly practical, and of course the return of the old favorites all made it a great adventure to be enjoyed by everyone. I for one loved it, and it truly made me feel like a kid again (although that feeling is pretty much a part of me anyway). So see this one again before the new one hits the theatres in december. To close with a Star Wars phrase: it is your destiny……

I give Star Wars: The Force Awakens a 9 out of 10 score.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever : a fantasy novel by Stephen Donaldson (1977)

Every year on my birthday a group of my closest friends gather together in secret to come up with a birthday present for me. And that is quite a difficult feat, mind you, as my hobbies and the things I like are quite large. As such, it becomes harder every year to find something that I don’t already own. (But to my defense I have the same problem in deciding what to give them in return). Usually it takes them quite a while to come up with an idea, but this year apparently was the first time that it was quite easy. On that fateful day in March I received a huge box that contained a large number of books. I was at a loss for words as it truly was a wonderful gift, but I was even more surprised in finding out that it was a series of novels that I had never heard about. Today I finished the first of those novels, a huge 1154 page omnibus edition that contained the first three books of an epic fantasy series. This review is written for my friends who gave me this wonderful present, but for one in particular who shall remain nameless, because I know she doesn’t like stuff like this. But she was the one who came up with this idea, and I can’t thank her enough, for this book was truly wonderful from start to finish. And then again: you know who you are anyway!

image

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever is an epic fantasy series, that features one of the most unusual heroes that you will ever meet. In fact I can’t think of a single book character that I have ever hated more in my life than Thomas Covenant. But in the end you want to see him win the day too, which only contributes to the amazing skills of the writer. Thomas Covenant has been diagnosed with leprosy. His wife, unable to deal with this, has filed for divorce and has left him, together with their young son. The town he lives in despises him, and wants nothing to do with him. In fact they pretty much stop at nothing to get him to leave. Because of this Thomas has grown into an incredibly bitter man, that has no love for anyone. One day he gets hit by a car and falls unconscious. And it is then that strange things are beginning to happen.

image

When Covenant wakes up he finds himself in an unfamiliair world, simply called “The Land”. He finds out that he has been summoned there by a creature that has been manipulated by an evil being called Lord Foul. Lord Foul’s evil threatens to destroy The Land, but Thomas might just have the power to stop him. And that power seems to be contained within the most unlikely place one could think of: the wedding ring on his finger which he could not make himself to stop wearing even after his divorce. Thomas, however doesn’t believe that all of this is real, and instead thinks it is something conjured up by his mind to let him deal with his leprosy. With the evil gaining power every single day, the plight of the good people of The Land becomes ever more desperate. But as long as Thomas remains an Unbeliever, Lord Foul has won the war without even having to strike a single blow….

image

This omnibus Edition contains the novels Lord Foul’s Bane, The Illearth War and The Power That Preserves. As I mentioned above, I truly hated Thomas Covenant. You would think that with everything I told you about him, one would give the guy a break. But trust me when I say that you will grow to hate him as well. This man is pretty much unfriendly to everyone he meets, no matter how they treat him. He even ends up raping an innocent girl at some point, which was a truly loathsome act. But still, as the story progresses his character grows on you, and you really want him to pull through anyway, no matter what he has done. Stephen Donaldson has put together a very rich fantasy world, filled with a huge cast of characters and places. And I do mean huge as at the back of the novel there is a 8 page glossary of names for all the characters, items, and places that the novel contains.

image

That was also the only negative point I could come up with. The sheer number of names and terms used in the book was so big, that I did find myself flicking to the back of the novel at times to look up who a certain character was. But besides that, this book is an incredible read from start to finish. It’s a pageturner that is hard to put down, and truly has that classic quality of  “Just one more chapter before I turn off the lights” (which usually means that you end up reading more than one chapter). The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is a must read for people who like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. It’s rich mythology, terrific characters, and epic storyline will hold you spellbound all the way to the end. Even though I will now take a break in order to return to a science fiction universe, I can’t wait to get back to The Land, and continue with the epic adventures of Thomas. Even though I still hate that guy…..

I give The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant a 9 out of 10 score.