Category Archives: Fantasy

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Image via Wikipedia

Directed by David Yates
Produced by David Heyman, David Barron & J. K. Rowling
Screenplay by Steve Kloves
Based on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Starring Daniel Radcliffe
Rupert Grint
Emma Watson
Ralph Fiennes
Alan Rickman
Helena Bonham Carter
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Orchestrator:
Conrad Pope
Themes:
John Williams
Cinematography Eduardo Serra
Editing by Mark Day
Studio Heyday Films
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date 18 November 2010
Running Time 146 minutes
Country United Kingdom & United States
Language English

It’s almost over. Almost a decade ago the first Harry Potter film was released and there is just one more picture to go until it is all finally over. Deathly Hallows part 1 I find to be OK, but it is very different to the other films in the series. There is no Hogwarts or the fun associated with it, while most of the supporting cast are relegated to cameo appearances in the first 10 minutes of the film. The entire movie focusses on the dynamic between Harry, Hermione and Ron. Much of the movie is like one big camping trip with the three main characters and their tent being in the spotlight for a long time. The film is quite slow but it builds and makes the viewer want the final installment now rather than in July.

This Potter film is a lot darker than the rest of the series and there is not much in the way of comic relief as in the other films. This movie feels a lot more like a Lord of the Rings type film than Harry Potter. (I guess JK Rowling based the last book on Tolkien’s work?!)

I must admit that I did not anticipate this film like I have the others in the Potter series. I gave up reading the books after the fifth installment and even though I do have the final two books here at home, I have never really had the inclination to read them. Maybe it’s because of the dread that if I do read them then the story will be finished. (Does that make sense?!)

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First Men In The Moon

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Written by Nigel Kneale (screenplay)
H.G. Wells (story)
Starring Lionel Jeffries
Edward Judd
Martha Hyer
Music by Laurie Johnson
Cinematography Wilkie Cooper
Editing by Maurice Rootes
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date November 20, 1964
Running time 103 mins
Country United Kingdom
Language English

First Men In The Moon is a 1864 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel featuring the great stop motion animation of Ray Harryhausen. It is an exciting film, even though at times Lionel Jeffries overacts.

This is typical 1950s/60s sci-fi stuff, with the ending sort of pinched from War Of The Worlds. Harryhausen’s monsters are perhaps not as threatening as in the Sinbad movies or Jason and the Argonauts, with the only real threat being the brief scene with a giant caterpillar-like moon cow. The other creatures created by Harryhausen are the insect like moon people called the Selenites.

The film is interesting and entertaining and a faithful adaptation of H.G. Wells’ work, but it is a change of pace from Ray Harryhausen’s usual film making magic.


The Time Machine

Directed by George Pál
Produced by George Pál
Written by David Duncan
H. G. Wells (novel)
Starring
Rod Taylor
Alan Young
Yvette Mimieux
Sebastian Cabot
Whit Bissell
Music by Russell Garcia
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date 17 August 1960
Running time 103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Time Machine is a sci-fi film made in 1960 by George Pal and stars Robert Taylor. It roughly follows the plot of H.G. Wells’ novel from the late 19th century in which an inventor creates a time machine and goes into the future to discover that mankind has torn itself apart through war. It does of course deviate away from the novel as it features scenes of World War I, World War II and the possibility of nuclear annihilation, things that Wells could not have possibly predicted.

When Taylor’s character H. George Wells goes into the future (1966 to be exact) and discovers that the world has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, he then decides to go thousands of years into the future to see i anything could have survived this destruction. He discovers that the human race has split into two species, the surface dwelling Eloi who are beautiful and seemingly carefree and ignorant, and the underground Morlocks, who are ugly and beastly and cruel. The Eloi have everything that they need provided to them by the Morlocks, who breed them like cattle only to cannibalise on them once they reach an age of maturity.

George ends up saving the Eloi and destroying the Morlocks and in doing so falls in love with the beautiful Eloi girl Weena. He then goes back to his own time where he relates his tale but is not believed by his friends. Because of this he returns to the future at the conclusion of the film.

The film is a typical 1960s type sci-fi film, of which their were hundreds. It is a very good fantsy film but the special effects are not all that special by 21st century standards. The use of stop motion animation and time-lapse photography is very quant when compared to today’s CGI but it was state of the art for its time. All in all the film is quite enjoyable as there has been a lot of thought put into the plot and the feelings of Taylor’s character. While the acting is a bit over the top, which was standard for 1950s and 60s sci-fi I still liked the movie.

By the way you may recognise Alan Young who plays Wells’ friend Filby. You may even recognise the Scottish accent he uses throughout the film. At around the same time that the Time Machine was released he was appearing in the first season of TV’s Mr. Ed as Wilbur Post. Since the 1980s he has lent his voice and Scottish accent to Uncle Scrooge McDuck for Disney.


Clash Of The Titans

Directed by Desmond Davis
Produced by Ray Harryhausen & Charles H. Schneer
Written by Beverley Cross
Starring Laurence Olivier
Harry Hamlin
Judi Bowker
Maggie Smith
Ursula Andress
Burgess Meredith
Music by Laurence Rosenthal
Cinematography Ted Moore
Editing by Timothy Gee
Distributed by MGM
Warner Home Video (International DVD)
Release date(s) June 12, 1981
Running time 118 min
Country United States
Language English

Titans will clash. This is the idiotic and uncreative tagline from the new version of Clash Of The Titans, due to be released in April. While I am sure that the new film will be appreciated by those film goers who are able to turn their brains off for two hours, I am sure that I will prefer the original version. Whilst the new version will undoubtedly have lots of cool computer generated characters and use loads of motion capture technology, I prefer watching Ray Harryhausen’s hand crafted and meticulous stop motion animation.

I could lie and say that Ray’s work on this film was state of the art, but in 1981 Ray’s craft had been equalled and surpassed by other creators that he had inspired. Clash Of The Titans looks very quant when compared to The Empire Strikes Back, which was released over twelve months earlier. What looked spectacular in the 1950s and 60s looks rather dated in the 80s, although there are a couple of great moments with Ray’s creations. The scenes where Pegasus is flying look really great as does the scenes with Medusa, while the Kraken looks like a standard Harryhausen giant monster. The only real miscue is Bubo the golden owl who is both annoying and unconvincing in a Jar Jar Binks kind of way.

Still this is a very enjoyable film. There are lots of renowned actors such as Laurence Olivier, Burgess Meredith and Maggie Smith (who looks as old here as she does in the Harry Potter films), as well as a brief appearance of former Bond girl Ursula Andress. It’s a fun movie and there is a lot of action. It is a typical Ray Harryhausen movie. I guess that Gen Yers won’t like this as they would prefer modern crap like Transformers and the worst of Uwe Boll, where there is a lot of fast paced mindless action and blowing shit up for no reason. Those people should just watch the big budget, computer made remake and ignore the original.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Directed by Richard Fleischer

Produced by Walt Disney

Written by Jules Verne (novel) & Earl Felton (screenplay)

Starring Kirk Douglas
James Mason
Paul Lukas
Peter Lorre

Cinematography Franz Planer

Editing by Elmo Williams

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures

Release date(s) December 23, 1954

Running time 127 min.

When one thinks about Walt Disney they usually picture Mickey Mouse, Snow White or perhaps Jimminy Cricket. Disney and animation are two words that are synonymous, so it’s understandable that the live action films that he made aren’t as well-known as his cartoons. That’s a shame because many of them are very good. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea from 1954 would have to be one of my favourite Disney live action films.

Though 20,000 Leagues Under the see features a fine cast it is James Mason who dominates the screen as the iconic Captain Nemo. Even alongside stars of the quality of Peter Lorre and Kirk Douglas it is Mason whose performance becomes indelibly etched in the viewer’s mind. This is simply his film and he is always excellent as Captain Nemo, especially when he shows the mental anguish that Nemo goes through when he seeks his vengeance on mankind and those who imprisoned him and tortured his wife and child on the prison island of Rura Penthe. He does not relish having to commit murder until the deed is done, and this shines through with Mason’s performance.

The same cannot be said for Kirk Douglas, who is hamstrung with a truly annoying character. Usually Douglas is a fine, dependable actor, but here he is burdened with some really clichéd seafaring jargon and typically Disney-esque happy-go-lucky attitude that becomes grating after about twenty minutes. It is only when he briefly shows his frustration at being Nemo’s prisoner that he gets to show any substance with his performance. This is not Kirk’s fault, as his Ned Land character was brought in to counter-balance the mood of the film opposite Mason’s tortured soul in Nemo. As this is a Disney film, and their primary target audience has always been families, they needed a goofy, lighthearted family friendly hero.

Another thing I should mention here is the special effects which were considered to be awesome back in 1954. They still hold up well today, especially the underwater photography and shots of the Nautilus streaking through the water. Less successful is the fight with the giant squid, which to 21st century eyes looks a little bit lame. Still if you can overlook that it is quite menacing and the fight is quite well staged.

Overall I think that 20,000 League Under The Sea is a terrific movie suitable for all ages. This is not only Disney’s finest live-action film but one of the best adventure movies of the 1950s, one which still stands up well today over 55 years since it was first released.

* This movie was not released in Australia until 22 December 1955, 364 days after Americans first got the opportunity to see it.


The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by Charles H. Schneer & Ray Harryhausen
Starring
Kerwin Mathews
Torin Thatcher
Kathryn Grant
Richard Eyer
Alec Mango
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date December 23, 1958
Running time 88 min.

The Cyclops

I originally bought the DVD of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad back in September 2008 but had not gotten around to watching it until today. I primarily bought the DVD because I had heard so much about the special effects of the legendary stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen and I wanted to see just how good they were for myself. I am also a great fan of stop-motion animation and I wanted to see just how Harryhausen’s work compared to that of his mentors Willis O’Brien and George Pal, as well as modern stop motion animation by the likes of directors Tim Burton and Wes Anderson. I was not disappointed as the stop-motion in Sinbad is great.

The film’s plot involves the legendary Sinbad, who is on his way to Baghdad with his fiance Princess Parisa. On the way there they discover the mythical island of Colussa where they see the incredible sight of the magician Sokurah fleeing from a giant one-eyed cyclops. When the cyclops turns on Sinbad and his men Sokurah rubs his magic lamp and orders the genie to create a barrier between Sinbad and the giant monster. However whilst fleeing the cyclops Sokurah loses the lamp which is subsequently picked up by our one-eyed friend. The magician tries to get brave Sinbad to return to the island, but the legendary sailor doesn’t want to put the lives of his crew at risk for such a folly.

Whilst in Baghdad Sokurah once again tries to convince Sinbad to return to Colossa. Even the Caliph of Baghdad, who is Parisa’s father, feels that if Sinbad agreed to Sokurah’s wishes it would spell disaster, even after the magician amazes the court by conjuring up a snake-woman. The only way that Sakurah can convince Sinbad and the Caliph to the trip is by shrinking the lovely Parisa to the size of a doll with an evil spell. He tells Sinbad that the only way to reverse the spell is with the shell of the egg of the two-headed Roc, which naturally enough only resides on Colossa. Sinbad has no choice and agrees to this, travelling with a crew made up of his bravest men as well as some of  the most desperate convicts from Baghdad’s prison. The convicts mutiny but are repelled when they are driven insane by screaming demons before finally reaching Colossa.

Once Sinbad and his crew finally reach Colossa they once again encounter the cyclops, who takes them prisoner. Whilst ol’ one eye is cooking one of Sinbad’s men on a spit, the beast is distracted by Sokurah, who had earlier split off from Sinbad and had snuck into the cyclops’ cave to look for the missing genie’s lamp. When the cyclops goes to investigate the tiny Parisa slips between the bars and unlatches the cage that has imprisoned Sinbad and his men. The cyclops is blinded after Sinbad pokes him in the eye with a spear, before it is tricked into walking off a cliff.

Sinbad takes possession of the lamp but does not know how to use it. Princess Parisa enters the lamp and finds a very unhappy boy genie who tells her the secret words to summon him, but only on the condition that she try to free him from his bondage.

The party finally reach the roc’s nest and Sinbad takes the part of the egg-shell he needs to break the magician’s spell. His starving men decide to quell their hunger by killing and eating the roc chick that emerges from an egg, which inevitably infuriates the bird’s mother who attack the men and takes Sinbad to her nest. In the confusion Sokurah kills Sinbad’s faithful men and abducts the Princess, taking her to his underground fortress. Sinbad follows, slipping past the dragon chained to quard the entrance. Sokurah finally transforms Parisa back to her normal size, in return for the magical lamp. However once he has possession of the lamp he reneges on his deal and brings a sword wielding skeleton to life to fight Sinbad. Sinbad defeats the skeleton in a very exciting sword fight before he and Parisa flee the underground lair. As they cross over a river of molten lava, Parisa recalls part of the prophesy the genie told her about. She persuades Sinbad to throw the lamp into the lava, freeing the genie from his slavery.

As Sinbad attempts to leave the cave he sees another cyclops blocking the exit. He releases the dragon to kill the cyclops but Sokurah then orders the fire-breather to attack the hero. Sinbad and his crew use the giant crossbow that they had built to slay the dragon, which kills the evil magician when it falls on Sokurah. Sinbad, Parisa and what is left of Sinbad’s crew depart but they soon find that the genie has been freed from his bondage to the magic lamp, as he is now Sinbad’s new cabin boy.

I must say that this was a film that I enjoyed watching a great deal. The stop motion animation may be quaint when compared to today’s CGI creations, but I appreciate the huge effort that Harryhausen put into not only building his fantastic creations, but for meticulous attention to detail he must have needed when animating each sequence. Apparently it took Ray a total of 11 months to finish all of his animation work on this movie. Whilst some of it does look a bit dodgy now, especially the scenes of Parisa where her size seems to change a bit, this was state of the art special effects in the late 1950s. I especially like the giant cyclops as well as the sword fight between Sinbad and the skeleton, which became a sort of Harryhausen trademark. Some of the acting is a bit wooden, in that cheesy 1950s way, but overall I think that The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad is a great movie suitable for everyone who loves adventure and imagination.