By: Reaper Rick

Welcome once again to Reaper Rick’s Movie Reviews. I’m going to get right into it today, as I have quite a bit to cover. First of all, I would like to discuss a fairly recent release, “The Last Airbender.” The previews for this movie looked pretty good, although I must admit that I had no idea this was a remake of the animated series, “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” I thought it was going to be some sort of martial arts film and in a way it was, but certainly not in the way I expected.

People I have talked to who were fans of the earlier “Avatar” animated series all seemed terribly disappointed with this M. Night Shyamalan (who both wrote and directed the movie) effort. I had nothing to compare it to however, so thought the story was an interesting concept. People on this world were able to ‘Bend’ the elements—Earth, Air, Fire and Water—to their bidding, and the ability to Bend was dependant on where you lived and which tribe or clan a person belonged to. But there was only one person, the Avatar, who was able to Bend all of the elements. This Avatar was also the spiritual leader of his people and could commune with the spirit world. Again, it was an interesting concept.

However, (and this is where the plot line comes in) about 100 years ago the last Avatar mysteriously disappeared, and with no one to control the elements the Fire Bender Clan began to take over the world—although there was no explanation as to why they decided to do this. I suppose there is always some bully who wants everything done his way, and in this story the Fire Benders are the bad guys. So, a brother and sister of the Water Bender Clan discover the lost Avatar locked away in a huge ice bubble (after 100 years) and revive him and his wooly mount (a creature very reminiscent of the furry marmot—or whatever it was—in “The Never Ending Story”). When they find out who this boy really is, they set out on a quest to stop the Fire Benders from taking over the world. Did I mention that this movie is only Book One? Subtitled the “Book of Water,” we can assume there will be three more Books/Movies to come if this one does well enough at the box office to warrant any more of them.

And while this movie may have made money for the producers (it had an estimated budget of only 15 million dollars) I hardly feel a sequel would garner any further money or acclaim. With basically a no-name cast, a small budget and really poor dialog, future films in this series might require a different writer and/or director to be successful.

This movie did have some good points. The action sequences were well done and the use of elements (although obviously done with CGI) in battle scenes looked good. Background scenes were also quite well done (these too were CGI produced), but the movie had too many faults for the CGI to save it. Wooden actors (Dev Patel, who played Prince Zuko of the Fire Bender Clan, and his uncle were the exceptions) along with poor dialog made it somewhat painful to watch. I suppose since this was essentially a ‘children’s’ movie they thought a younger audience would not notice the many flaws it contained.

As an adult, however, I give “The Last Airbender” Two and a Half howls of Pleasure for some really nice CGI and an interesting story concept. It’s a shame they could not bring this story to the screen properly. Maybe next time, if there is a next time.

Perhaps my favorite movie of those recently released has to be “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow and William Hurt. Directed by Ridley Scott, this is one of the most original Robin Hood concepts I have run across, although they did change history just a bit to make this movie.

While it is true that King Richard died in France from a crossbow bolt to the neck (that was 1199), in the movie he was returning from the Crusades when he died, but actually the battle in which Richard met his end took place about five years after he returned to England in 1194. In reality he was captured and held for ransom on the way back from the Crusades, which is why his brother John began to tax the people of England—to raise money for Richard’s release. Even so, the movie plot line was a great way for Robin of Loxley to return to England and begin his career as an outlaw.

The ‘Children of the Hood’ in the movie was a new concept—one which I am not sure worked overly well—and the invasion force from France was a bit of a stretch. If those poor saps really rowed a bunch of square-boxed boats a hundred miles across the English Channel they would have been too bloody tired to fight a battle on the beach when they got there.

The basic story line, plus wonderful photography and scenic design, really good battle scenes and great acting made up for a few minor historical changes, so I give “Robin Hood” Four Howls of Pleasure . This is a must-see movie for anyone who is a legend of Robin Hood fan.

Oddly enough, even after ‘King’ John made a mess of everything in England while Richard was imprisoned, when Richard died childless in 1199 he left the English throne to John, but then left all of his jewels and money to a cousin.

Okay, so since this is the Christmas/Yule/Winter Solstice issue of The World of Myth, I thought I would discuss a few Christmas-type movies for your enjoyment.

One of my all time favorite movies is “The Lion in Winter” from 1968. This Oscar winning movie starred Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton and Nigel Terry. You may wonder why I included this movie in a Christmas selection, but it does take place during Christmas in the year 1183, and King Henry II was the father of Richard the Lionheart who was king during the previously reviewed movie, “Robin Hood.” So it all fits together rather nicely.

Henry II (Peter O’Toole) has called together his family for the Christmas holiday to announce his successor to the throne. His wife, Elenor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn) has been in prison for many years (she was placed there by Henry for leading a revolt against his rule), but is released for the holiday. Henry’s sons, Richard, John and Geoffrey also attend the festivities, and all of them want to be the next King of England. Henry also invites Philip II, the King of France and brother to Henry’s mistress, Alais.

Talk about a dysfunctional family! The next few days reveal plot and counter plot as each member of the family scheme against, and then cajole each other, as well as Philip (Timothy Dalton) in an attempt to gain the throne. At first Henry wants John to be the next king, but after he discovers that John has plotted against him with Philip, Henry turns to Richard (Anthony Hopkins). Elenor also plots to have Richard be king, and when Henry finds out about this he decides to go to Rome, divorce Elenor and marry his mistress so he can have another son, who will eventually become king.

Henry finally gets so upset with his family that he locks all of the sons in a dungeon, but they are freed by Elenor and they all attempt to stage an uprising to overthrow Henry. This fails, however, and the movie ends with no successor being named. History shows us that Richard indeed became the next King of England, but “The Lion in Winter” is an excellent portrayal of intrigue, back-stabbing and the political campaigns which can make up a royal succession.

I very rarely do this, but with an amazing cast, great acting, marvelous scenic design and a wonderful story line I have to give “The Lion in Winter” Five Howls of Pleasure . If you enjoy historical drama this is a movie which must be seen. I highly recommend it.

And you cannot have a Christmas movie list without Tim Burton’s 1993 animated classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” I am sure we all know the story, so let me just say that this musical comedy drama rates a big Four Howls of Pleasure from me, but then I am fond of Tim Burton movies.

Okay, now let’s switch over to some Christmas comedies. There have been dozens of remakes of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” but the 1988 movie “Scrooged” is one of the best if you enjoy comedy. Directed by Richard Donner this hilarious flick stars Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, and Michael J. Pollard.

Murray is cast as a modern-day miserly Scrooge who is a television executive that cares nothing for the spirit of the holiday and wants a seriously monetary Christmas as his station produces a live version of “A Christmas Carol.” He is visited by three ghosts and is shown the error of his ways as he sees his own past, present and possible future. It’s the same old story, but done in a new and very funny way. This is a great Holiday film and a laugh-out-loud classic. I have to give “Scrooged” Four big Howls of Pleasure . This movie I highly recommend.

Another holiday classic comedy is National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” from 1989, which stars Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Johnny Galecki (“The Big Bang Theory”), E.G. Marshall, Randy Quaid and Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”).

I’m sure just about everyone has already seen this movie, but I had to include it in this Christmas selection. All poor Clark Griswold wants is a nice, pleasant family holiday, but what he gets is a comedy of errors which would send any ordinary man completely over the edge of sanity. A must see Holiday treat, I give “Christmas Vacation” Four Howls of Pleasure for a great cast and non-stop laughs.

And that’s it for me this issue. Let me know what you think about the movies I’ve reviewed, and I wish all of our readers a Happy Holiday Season, as well as Peace and Joy for everyone.

About the Columnist

Reaper Rick is an avid movie lover who has never quite gotten over the terror he experienced as a young child when he watched his first horror movie on the big screen back before most of you were even born. He really enjoys good movies and really hates bad ones.
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