By: Reaper Rick

Greetings everyone, and welcome to a brand New Year and a new World of Myth Magazine. It’s Reaper Rick here, and now that the holidays are over, I’m sure most of you are somewhat overstuffed, perhaps still a bit hung over, and are no doubt waiting patiently for the holiday bills to start rolling in. But in the meantime, fix up a big bowl of popcorn, sit back, relax, and let’s review some movies.

First of all, however, along with several other new items that will appear in this issue of The World of Myth, a new movie rating system is being introduced with this review. Whereas former ‘good’ ratings were assigned one to five ‘Howls of Pleasure’ (a system we have used since the very first issues of the ‘Myth’), we will now use a “Star” rating system. The highest good score a movie may now receive will be Five Stars, and a movie just barely worth watching will be awarded One Star. At this point I am not sure what movies which are not worth watching shall be awarded, but fortunately we do not have any reviews that fall into the really poor film category this issue. So then, on we go…

While our first movie may technically be considered a Holiday film, “Hogfather” goes way beyond a mere holiday adventure. Released in 2006 and taken from a BBC two-part miniseries, “Hogfather” is an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s novel by the same name, and stars David Jason, Marc Warren, Michelle Dockery, David Warner, and Ian Richardson. Fans of Terry Pratchett and Discworld will already know about “Hogfather” and Discworld in particular, and for those who are not yet fans of Pratchett this movie will introduce you to Discworld and his novels.

It’s Hogswatch on Discworld, and for some reason the Hogfather is missing. (On Discworld—a flat, round world supported by four gigantic elephants that stand on the back of a planet-sized turtle which swims slowly through space—Hogswatch is the equivalent of Christmas. The Hogfather is a large, bi-pedal hog who wears a red suit, rides in an airborne sleigh pulled by, well…hogs, and delivers presents to children on Hogswatch. This is obviously a fantasy story). Death (an actual character on Discworld) discovers the Hogfather’s hourglass shattered, and realizes something is seriously wrong. (Every living creature on Discworld has an hourglass filled with a certain amount of sand. When they are born their hourglass is turned over and the sand begins to run through it. As the sand transfer nears its inevitable end, Death appears to collect their soul. A shattered hourglass, however, means something even more disastrous than death).

It seems that a group of ethereal creatures on the Disc have decided that the Hogfather must be eliminated, so they go to the Assassin’s Guild (a perfectly legal organization [and occupation] on Discworld) and take out a contract on the jolly old hog. This task is given to an up-and-coming young assassin with the stipulation that it must be accomplished before morning.

Discworld is (naturally) a place of great magic, and some creatures can sense this magic more readily than others. Death is one such creature, and he realizes that if the Hogfather should disappear, his absence would bring about drastic changes in people’s (especially children’s) view of life and how life affects the magic on Discworld. So Death decides that Hogswatch must occur without interruption, and he will take the Hogfather’s place. Death enlists his granddaughter to find out what actually happened to the Hogfather, while Death and his butler take on the task of delivering presents to the children of the Disc.

Meanwhile, the assassin and his crew of ‘bad guys’ break into the Tooth Fairy’s castle and grab up all of the previously collected teeth which once belonged to the children of Discworld. I can hear you asking, “Why would they do anything so dastardly?” Well, it’s quite simple, actually. An ancient form of magic shows that if you have a physical object that once belonged to a person (hair, nail clippings, blood or teeth), then you could, with the help of a magic spell, control that person or persons. So the assassin, along with a dropout from Discworld’s Unseen University (the college of magic, wherein all of Discworld’s wizards are trained), plan to take control of all the children’s emotions and make them ‘Hate’ the Hogfather and Hogswatch. Without their love and belief in him and the holiday of Hogswatch, the Hogfather would simply cease to exist.

There is quite a bit of really funny dialog and comic situations in this movie, along with some minor action and chase scenes, but it is all classic Pratchett, and is a fair representation of the novel. At just over three hours in length they thankfully did not need to leave too much out of the movie, so it is well worth a rental. I left an enormous amount of the story line out of this review, but there is way too much to even try and cover in a short review. For a great cast, an amazing story, and a wonderful movie, I give “Hogfather” Four Stars and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys humor, fantasy, magic or simply a great movie. Have some fun with this one.

A movie few people may have seen and even fewer even heard of is the 2011 release of “Ironclad.” The only reason I can think of why this flick was not viewed more than it was must have been due to a lack of publicity, since I never knew about it until I ran across it by accident on Netflix. Anyone who enjoys historical, medieval battle movies with plenty of action (yes, yes, I do!) will love this film. It stars Paul Giamatti, Derek Jacobi, Kate Mara, Brian Cox, and James Purejoy.

In 1215, King John of England was more or less forced to sign the Magna Carta (which granted basic freedoms to the men of England) by most of the county’s Barons, who threatened civil war if the monarch refused to sign. John begrudgingly signed the document, but as soon as the Barons dispersed, John reneged on the agreement, stating he signed it under duress. King John then decided to track down all of the Barons who (also) signed the Magna Carta, kill them and seize their lands and monies for the crown—which meant John got to keep everything.

John was, unfortunately, not a very good king. He became king of England when his brother, Richard the Lionheart (the previous king) died during a battle in France. Richard led the English on the First Crusade to take back Jerusalem from the Islamic infidel and restore it to Christians. When thousands of warriors, some of them members of the Knights Templar, returned home after years of battle, they sought a new type of freedom. A few of these Knights Templar joined forces with one of the Barons who was now being pursued by King John and decided to fight John for their personal rights and for freedom.

Okay, enough history lesson. In “Ironclad,” a handful of men take refuge in a small castle and attempt to hold off King John’s army by force of arms and an indomitable will. The result is a series of desperate, violent, and very bloody battles, and some of the most incredibly wicked scenes of death and bodily destruction I have ever witnessed on film. This is a very graphic movie and is definitely not suitable for children or those who may be squeamish, but for anyone who appreciates historically accurate battles with blades and other weapons which literally tore men limb from limb, I would recommend this film.

For accurate representations of deadly warfare, a good cast and a great historical movie, I give “Ironclad” Three and a Half Stars . It is well worth a weekend rental—go get it!

Next we come to a movie based on the classic series of novels by Robert E. Howard—“Conan the Barbarian.” I have been a fan of the Conan stories and saga for more than forty years, and while this 2011 movie is a remake, I feel it is a far better interpretation of Howard’s barbarian anti-hero than the original effort. This version stars Jason Momoa (“Stargate Atlantis”), Ron Perlman (the “Hellboy” movies and “Sons of Anarchy”), and Rose McGowan (“Planet Terror”).

As a child, Conan is witness to the destruction of his village and the killing of his father. He vows revenge against the man responsible for this devastation, but it is nearly twenty years before the opportunity for vengeance finally arises. During those years Conan became a warrior, a thief, a pirate, and a leader of men. As with many of the Conan stories, there is an element of magic in this movie, and the Cimmerian must battle magical evil to find and destroy the men who killed his father, and incidentally he also rescues a fair maiden from a certain and despicable death.

This Conan is seemingly more intelligent and more active than the original movie version, and is a more accomplished swordsman. There is plenty of action and blood in this movie, and any fan of Conan will find it enjoyable. It is not perfect, but is a fun film and a great popcorn flick. For a good cinema graphic effort, a fun, action-packed adventure and a star cast, I give “Conan the Barbarian” Three Stars .

And now we have yet another movie sequel. In past efforts it has proven difficult for some studios to keep a movie franchise going while maintaining audience approval, as well as making each sequel fresh, exciting, and entertaining. Somehow, Disney has managed to accomplish all of these with issue Number Four of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” And they did so even without some of the major star quality of the first three movies.

Johnny Depp, of course, returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, as does most of his motley crew from the first three movies. Goffrery Rush also reprises his role as Jack’s nemesis, but he is now working for the English Crown as a Privateer rather than a pirate, after he lost his leg and Sparrow’s ship, The Black Pearl. In this episode everyone seems to be looking for the Fountain of Youth, although as a side plot Sparrow wants to get his ship back.

New characters in this movie are Penelope Cruz as a former ‘acquaintance’ of Jack’s, and Ian Mc Shane (“Pillars of the Earth” and “Deadwood”) as the famous pirate, Blackbeard. All of these pirates and their accomplices race the nation of Spain to Florida and attempt to locate the fabled Fountain of Youth.

Somehow, “On Stranger Tides” seemed even funnier than previous ‘Pirates’ movies, and also seemed to have more action than the earlier episodes. While there was some CG effects in this movie, they were not the huge ship battles or dramatic whirlpool images to ‘over impress’ the viewer. In this movie Johnny Depp really shines as Jack Sparrow, with amazing sword play and great, really funny dialog. He may have shared the starring role in previous ‘Pirate’ movies, but in “On Stranger Tides” Jack Sparrow is the star, and he seems to enjoy the spotlight.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is an exciting, funny, action-packed, must-see movie for any Depp fan or anyone who just enjoys a really good flick. I give this sequel Four Stars and highly recommend it. And, while the option for yet another sequel is not as apparent in this one as in the previous movies, the potential is still there. (Spoiler Alert! Jack does indeed find the missing Black Pearl, but it is not quite in the condition he would wish for it to be. Is this a possible subject for another potential sequel? Arrgghh!)

And that’s it for the Reaper this issue. I’ll see you next time then, eh?

About the Author

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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