80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Ladyhawke”

ladyhawke

Even the movie poster is stunning.

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I haven’t seen many of those flicks, so I figured I’d watch through. Next up is “Ladyhawke,” yet another one I’ve never seen before–to my embarassment! There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

“Ladyhawke” is, at its most basic level, the story of a curse. Two men–a corrupt bishop and Etienne of Navarre, the Captain of the Guard–fall in love with a woman–Isabeau d’Anjou; one is rejected and decides to curse her for spurning him. Thus cursed, the woman is a hawk by day, and the man a wolf by night. Fearing endless torment, the man decides to kill the one who has put them in this condition, and thus begins a quest which leads to the curse being broken at last.

But “Ladyhawke” is way more than that. It’s got true love, adventure, escape, fighting, revenge…okay I’m not talking about “The Princess Bride,” but this is a fantastic movie. Basically everything goes right. Seriously.

But let’s get this out of the way–the thing that goes “wrong” is the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s almost 100% 80s synth-rock. I’m sure it seemed like a great idea at the time, but it has not stood the test of time very well.

With that out of the way, let’s explore what went right. First, the movie is stunningly filmed. The angles in each shot are just awesome, often with characters silhouetted against beautiful landscapes or sunsets. Second, the story itself is compelling and epic. It’s a true fantasy, and it feels like a fairy tale that I never knew about [it apparently is one, by the way]. Third, the characters are endearing and extraordinarily well-acted, particularly Mouse–the cutpurse comedian who dialogues with God throughout the movie–played by Matthew Broderick. Fourth, you get the idea–go watch the movie!

The humor from “Mouse” was sustained throughout, but there were a number of truly epic one-liners that just had me laughing with glee. I don’t want to reproduce them here both because they really should be watched and because some of them are only humorous contextually. I could see this becoming a movie I start to memorize and use lines from, though.

The story itself holds up remarkably well, for as simply as you can write it out. Again, this is largely due to the strength of the characters. Etienne is clearly distressed by the cursed condition and is driven to vengeance while Isabeau holds out hope. Mouse deftly inflames their love even more. Something about the curse itself seems simultaneously sad and awesome. If only they could morph into those animals at will rather than having it tear their love apart.

Seriously, this movie was amazing. I immediately purchased it (having gotten it from the library).

The Good

+Interesting main plot with just enough feeling of a “fairy tale”
+Great characters that are each well-acted
+Absolutely stunning cinematography
+Genuine humor that never takes away from the movie
+Fantastic dialogue

The Bad

-80s Synth Rock doesn’t quite seem to fit the tone of the film

The Verdict

Grade: A “A super epic fantasy movie that just blew me away. ‘Ladyhawke’ is AWESOME.”

Guest Grade (Wife): A “It was absolutely delightful all around.”

Conclusion

“Ladyhawke” is a tremendous film.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

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80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Willow”

willow

They don’t make movie posters as epic as they used to. This is SWEET!

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I haven’t seen many of those flicks, so I figured I’d watch through. Here, I review “Willow,” another one that I had never seen before. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

“Willow” is the story of a prophecy- one that says that a dark Queen–Bavmorda–will be overthrown by a child. Naturally, the Queen decides to check for all the children to see if they might be the prophesied one, but also naturally, that one is born and many people manage to work together to smuggle her away. Then, she ends up with Willow, part of a Nelwyn–race of little people–community. After they decide to take the child elsewhere because she’s not their problem, Willow gets embroiled in an adventure to protect the child alongside Madmartigan, a great swordsman (and seeming ne’er-do-well). Along with some Brownies and other characters met along the way, they protect the babe and Willow–the aspiring Sorcerer–saves the day.

Wait, what? I thought the kid was supposed to defeat the Queen! Well never mind that. And really, never mind basically any attempt to be serious about anything in this movie. After an opening that seemingly promised epic adventure, we are delivered a kind of silly, whimsical journey of Willow’s own discovery of himself as a hero.

But you know what? You don’t care. The movie is just that fun. So many scenes stand out as just being uproariously ridiculous, like when Madmartigan and Willow go swooping through the snow, with Madmartigan ultimately getting turned into a solid block of snow. It’s silly, it involves sword fighting, and it’s amazing. Time and again the film delivers huge action scenes that are infused with all kinds of silliness, and as a viewer I really didn’t mind. It just works. Part of what makes it work is that a great decision was made to leave virtually no time for the viewer to sit back and reflect on the plot. It’s just action followed by more action followed by hilarity, all in a continuous cycle. Another part that makes it work is that it is so genuinely humorous. Only rarely do the attempts at humor fall flat.

What does’t work so well is finding the audience. It’s clearly aimed at kids–Lucas himself apparently said so–but there is some pretty creepy stuff like the dark magic or some weird transforming trolls that are super gross. Also, there were clearly some scenes in which you as a viewer are supposed to be taking the movie more seriously… but you just can’t because of the context of the whole movie. It at times wants to be an epic fantasy, but it has sold itself so much on the comedy side that it can’t rebrand itself enough to be taken as seriously as it would like.

What does work, though, is the underlying theme of the “little person” against the overall evil and injustice in the world. No that wasn’t supposed to be a pun! But it works! Anyway, it’s a good story of Willow finding in himself more than he thought was possible, and a story of how one person can change the world.

“Willow” is one part epic adventure, one part a journey of self-discovery, and two parts silly. Whether that is a good thing or not is up to you.

The Good

+Genuinely hilarious moments
+Virtually no downtime between action scenes
+Great opening scenes
+Fun characters

The Bad

-Takes itself far too seriously for its content
-Some scary scenes make it hard to figure out what audience the movie was made for
-Somewhat enigmatic resolution of the plot

The Verdict

Grade: B+ “Oscillating constantly between ridiculous and taking itself too seriously, ‘Willow’ is a treat.” 

Guest Score and comment: My wife gives the movie a B+ “‘Willow’ was a delightful if somewhat absurd fantasy story.”

Conclusion

Silly and fun, “Willow” is an enjoyable adventure.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Labyrinth”

labyrinth-posterI have embarked on a quest to watch a number of 80s Fantasy flicks and share my findings with you, dear readers. Today, we reflect on Labyrinth. This is one of the many on the list that I had not seen before, so I’m coming at it fresh.

The movie does many things right. The intro scene is just great, and the premise is a perfect set up for a childhood classic. It just feels like a perfect movie for kids to watch with the setup of Sarah having to watch the “annoying” younger child, Toby, along with her drifting into fantasyland, and more. It’s got 80s movie written all over it, but in a good way. The premise with Sarah having to make her way through a labyrinth to get Toby back is fun. Plus, David Bowie is a pretty awesome Goblin King.

The sets were also pretty cool to see, and some of the costumes were really neat.

Let’s just get this out of the way: you can’t unsee David Bowie’s pants. Every scene it’s like they decided to accentuate a certain masculine feature of the man by means of strangely fitting garments. One might even argue that his pants are the true antagonist of the movie. I’ll just leave it there.

There are also some really inexplicable scenes, like the one with the weird fire thingies that throw their heads back and forth. It’s just weird, extremely long, and obnoxious. Other scenes also seem to be really drawn out to the extent that the movie seems to absolutely crawl at times.

All that said, though, this is another 80s Fantasy Flick I wouldn’t mind seeing again. It has an undeniable charm and real sense of fun throughout that is absolutely necessary for a movie like this.

The Good

+Fun childhood fantasy story
+Intriguing premise
+David Bowie
+Good sets

The Bad

-Often feels bogged down
-Many weird scenes
-David Bowie’s pants

The Verdict

My Score: B- “It’s weird and it really drags at times but the sheer amount of charm the movie possesses makes it fun to watch.”

Guest Verdict: “It’s hard too go to far wrong with fun music and lovable puppets.”

Conclusion

“Labyrinth” is a fun movie I wouldn’t mind seeing again, particularly with the ability to skip through some of the unnecessary scenes.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “The Dark Crystal”

the-dark-crystalI embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I haven’t seen many of those flicks, so I figured I’d watch through. Here, I review “The Dark Crystal.” There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

There was quite a bit of parallelism in the narrative beginning, which was really interesting. Unfortunately this parallelism didn’t really continue in the rest of the movie. Nor did the plot really get any more depth added beyond the beginning. The story is pretty straightforward: go restore the Dark Crystal so that the world can go back to being green and happy again. So the setup is what you have to rely on to keep the whole rest of the narrative going.

But let’s be honest. “The Dark Crystal” is not at all about the plot. It’s about a whimsical, beautiful journey. And beautiful is probably the defining characteristic of this film. Every single set is a veritable feast for the eyes as details abound. Small creatures move around; water bubbles; plants move and have unique looks to them; everything is covered with intricacy. It’s pretty amazing to behold and it is easy to just get caught up looking at the movie rather than watching it. Scene after scene shows viewers yet another marvelous vista, another amazing place that looks worthy of exploration.

And while we’re listing some good things, that opening scene was pretty awesome, wasn’t it? The voiced-over opening with the parallels between the bad guys and good guys. The beautiful scenery. The foreboding castle. That is fantasy done right.

It is, however, kind of hard to get over everything being a puppet. Sure, I love Star Wars and there are puppets in there all over. But they are used more subtly. EVERYTHING in this movie is a puppet. Seriously. If it moves, I’m pretty sure it’s a puppet. That’s not a bad thing by necessity, and they are just as beautifully and interestingly made as are the sets, but it is a little hard to get over it.

The Good

+Absolutely stunning
+Amazing sets with ridiculous amounts of detail
+Some pretty neat moments
+There’s a mini-Chewbacca-dog
+Great opening

The Bad

-Bare-bones plot
-A little hard to get over everything being puppets

The Verdict

My Score: “Fantasy muppets is beautiful. That pretty much sums it up.”

Guest Verdict (My brother-in-law, Jon): “Entertaining and fun, but neither exceptionally fun nor exceptionally bad.”

Conclusion

“The Dark Crystal” is the kind of movie I am confident I would have loved if I had seen it about 20 years ago. Unfortunately, I’m first seeing it now, and some of the flaws that I think nostalgia or youth could have covered are all the more evident because of this. The movie is stunningly beautiful, but the plot itself is extremely thin. That said, it is such a feast for the eyes and the setup is so good that I feel willing to forgive a whole lot. Also, I really wish I’d seen it a while back because I’m pretty sure this would have been among my favorite movies ever.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks

the-dark-crystalI recently ran across a post on Tor’s blog entitled “A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would Please Crom Himself!” I read through it because I love fantasy, but then I realized how disturbingly few of these movies I have actually seen. In fact, the only ones I had seen were #1 “The Neverending Story” and #2 “The Princess Bride.” These movies are amazing, and I figured I’d watch the others. So, here we go!

I’ll be writing a brief snippet/overview of each flick, then going through “The Good” and “The Bad” aspects of the movie. After that, there will be a grade from A+ through F. I’m hoping to pick up some awesome viewing along the way. And hey, if I don’t, I suspect a bunch of 80s movies will be hilariously weird enough to at least be entertaining.

I will update this post with links to the reviews as I watch the movies. I expect this will take me a long time to get through, but I have already watched one of those I haven’t seen yet, so buckle your seatbelts because we’re going to embark on an epic adventure of hair and magic as we go through some 80s Fantasy flicks together.

Reviews

The Dark Crystal Review– Fantasy Muppets LOTR. How does it fare?

Labyrinth Review– David Bowie as a fantasy movie star? Where do I sign up? Or maybe I need to sign out?

Willow Review– How does Lucasfilm’s try at an epic fantasy work out? Check out the review to find out.

Ladyhawke Review– I immediately bought this one. Why? Read on to find out!

The Black Cauldron– Many people’s childhood favorite. I’d never seen it before. Does it hold up to a viewing from a 28-year-old?

Clash of the Titans– How does this retelling of Greek mythology play out? Wait, is that Maggie Smith? What!?

Highlander– We all know “there can only be one,” but is this one worth watching?

Legend– Ridley Scott and Tom Cruise? Could anything possibly go wrong? [Yes.]

Excalibur– You better dust off your copies of King Arthur lore before watching this one. Seriously.

The Last Unicorn– An annoyingly catchy theme song basically tells you the plot of this one. But can a truly vile enemy make the movie great?

Conan the Barbarian– Arnold as fantasy warrior. What could be better?

Dragonslayer– Dragons must be slain. Does this movie do this fantasy trope justice?

The Neverending Story– I loved this movie as a kid. How does it hold up after so many years?

Conan the Destroyer– Will the second iteration of Conan be worthy of the first?

The Beastmaster– Do you enjoy a heaping helping of animal abuse with your film? No? Don’t watch this one.

List of Movies

Here’s the list provided by Tor. If you have any comments on any of the movies (PLEASE BE SPOILER FREE), feel free to drop your thoughts/recommendations.

Cave Dwellers
Krull
Highlander
Masters of the Universe
The Black Cauldron
The Beastmaster
Excalibur
Clash of the Titans
Legend
Willow
Labyrinth
The Last Unicorn
Conan the Barbarian
Dragonslayer
Ladyhawke
The Dark Crystal
The Princess Bride
The Neverending Story

Book Review: “Never to Live” by Just B. Jordan

ntl-jordanNever to Live is madness. The main character, Elwyn, is tortured into madness after she agrees to try to stop an ancient evil. The book then follows Elwyn and a cast of characters on an adventure which seems as disjointed as Elwyn’s mind. There will be SPOILERS below.

Terms are introduced with little-to-no definitions anywhere in the book. Things like “loxasta” are mentioned but their role is never clearly defined nor is there ever enough description to know what they might be motivated by. Locales are as bare bones as possible, often with no description so that it comes as a surprise when someone steps out from behind a tree (after all, how did we know trees were here when there was no description?). Characters similarly have almost no detail, with readers left to try to fill in the pieces of their motivations, descriptions, and backgrounds. All of this is a bit surprising in a book that comes close to 700 pages.

What is done with those 700 pages? The first 100-200 pages are largely a trip through the mad mind wanderings of the main character, Elwyn. There’s not enough detail to explain why these memories are chosen or what context they might have or how, exactly, the torture is happening or even really for what reason. Yes, hints are dropped, but they never meld together to form anything coherent. The next 400+ pages are basically just following the set of characters–largely without motivations–through a journey through the land. During this journey, one character discovers the ability to turn into a dragon, another starts sprouting roots (!), others discuss their thoughts with a demonic character, a dragon shows up, a were-panther follows Elwyn around (why?), and more.

All of this makes sense, in a way, because Never to Live never sets ground rules for how the world works. There are no apparent restrictions on the possible, so having characters randomly start turning into a plant only to reveal later a link between that and a covenant with the dryads–another faction without any background (along with the loxasta, the “kings”–apparently some malicious rulers of some land, though it’s never entirely sure which land where or why, etc.)–seems almost reasonable. The problem is that because there seem to be virtually no rules, no descriptions, and no background, the book never gets its feet grounded in a reality that readers can relate to. It seems entirely disjointed throughout, with little reason to care about what’s happening.

Even when the story starts to wrap up (page 600 and following), some threads are tied, but completely new open-ended thoughts are introduced, like a horse that apparently was Elwyn’s son the whole time. The ending is probably the best part, but it does little to tie up all the loose ends or even make sense of the world in which the story takes place.

On the plus side, there are some interesting points brought up by a character named Weaver–possibly a God stand-in but it is never clear–regarding theology and philosophy. Moreover, the exploration of self-worth and the concept of reducing a main character to madness is intriguing, it just doesn’t work as portrayed in this book.

Never to Live is a tough read. I re-read multiple sections, even going back and re-reading the introductory chapters a few times after things related to them popped up later in the book. Even after that work dedicated to the book, I am left with the conclusion that it is, unfortunately, a jumbled and faceless outline of a story rather than a complete story on its own.

The Good

+Some intriguing philosophical/theological points
+Interesting premise

The Bad

-Completely incoherent opening
-Characters receive almost no development
-Locales have almost no description to ground them
-Ideas are introduced seemingly at random
-Key terms insufficiently explained
-No motivations for characters

The Verdict

Grade: D

At times incoherent, and on the whole lacking in development, Never to Live is a sometimes tantalizing mess.

I received a review copy of this book from Enclave publishing. I was not influenced or required by the publisher to write any kind of review.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Just B. Jordan, Never to Live (Colorado Springs, CO: Enclave, 2009).

SDG.

What _is_ this place?

Hello to anyone reading this. I’m J.W. Wartick and I’m already a fairly regular blogger over at my main site, Always Have a Reason. That site is itself about philosophy of religion as well as Christian apologetics, theology, and science. But I have way more interests than I could contain on just that blog.

I have a fascination for history, science, and the arts. I love reading sci-fi, fantasy, and history. Paleontology and archaeology fascinate me. I love playing role-playing games and driving franchises in Madden.

In short, I need an outlet for all these things–a place for me to just reflect on my interests that don’t seem to fall under the umbrella of my main site. There is too much going on in this head to keep it all in.

You, the reader, may find this diverting. I know how interesting it can be to explore the random thoughts of people. Hopefully this site will lead you to some new interests, or perhaps you’ll comment and help lead me off to learn about things about which I know little or nothing.

You, the reader, are therefore asked by me, the author, to leave your own reflections on the topics I present here. Or, if you desire, you can just post about other random interests of your own. When I put up a post on the Battle of Midway, you can respond by talking about Gettysburg. That is fine! Please do so!

Finally, readers are entitled to a bit of background about myself if we’re going to have engaging discussions. I’m a Christian theist who loves a good debate. I’m getting an M.A. in Christian Apologetics. Philosophy of religion is my primary interest, but as you read on here you’ll find I have interests all over the place. I’m a devoted Christian who believes that the evidence for Christian theism is quite strong (if you want to read on that, you should check out my main site). You’ll note, then, that theism–indeed, Christian theism–permeates my posts, even when I’m talking about things unrelated to it. I’ll not apologize for that. We all let our worldviews into every aspect of our lives. I hope as you read here you’ll find some questions to ask and, maybe even some answers.