High Fantasy

[6.5] This American/Japanese animated venture would be the first feature-length movie journey into J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Produced by Rankin/Bass (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Last Unicorn) and animated by the studio that would later become Studio Ghibli, The Hobbit is a brisk 77-minute adaptation that features many folksy songs and a notable voice cast led by John Huston as Gandalf. While it may be …

[6.5] After the polarizing (and frankly great) The Last Jedi, and the almost insufferable Rogue One, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from another Star Wars movie. But I was excited about the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, because his performance in the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar is one the most charismatic turns I’ve seen at the movies in many years. And …

[8.0] I’ve been hard on Marvel movies for being cookie-cutter and devoid of surprises, but Avengers: Infinity War stops that trend dead in its tracks. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War) are downright masterful at keeping Infinity War going strong from beginning to end, with never a dull moment, all the action you’d expect, far more laughs than …

[8.5] Writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) picks up the reigns and steers the franchise into bold, new waters with an entry that summons Star Wars fans to let go of the past and wipe the slate clean, so that something new can begin to grow. After the fan-pandering Episode VII, something new and unpredictable was exactly what I craved in a Star Wars movie. Johnson …

[7.0] An ambitious fantasy adventure that throws a slew of familiar fantasy staples into a well trodden tale. But what it lacks in originality Krull makes up in style and spirit. Ken Marshall plays Colwyn, a young prince who must rescue his bride-to-be (Lysette Anthony) from a galactic Beast. Marshall brings a little Errol Flynn to the role, but the screenplay remains too superficially archetypal …

[7.5] Special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen brings Greek myths to life in Clash of the Titans. The story centers on heroic Perseus, favored son of Zeus, who must accomplish several deadly chores in order to save his beloved Andromeda from being sacrificed to the monstrous Kraken. The film features a wide array of stop-motion animated characters, including Pegasus the winged horse, Bubo the mechanical owl, …

[4.0] Rogue One is the first of what is sure to be many stand-alone or spin-off Star Wars movies over the next few decades. This maiden venture focuses on the events leading directly into Episode IV: A New Hope, with a young woman trying to redeem her father’s coerced invention of the Death Star by leading a rag-tag team of freedom fighters into hostile Imperial …

[7.5] James Cameron’s first film since Titanic is a supreme juvenile fantasy with a healthy sense of adventure and discovery. From its floating mountains to its bio-luminescent flora and fauna, the world of Pandora never stops unfolding before our eyes, and it’s a beautiful, trippy little place to visit. The core concept of Avatar — that of experiencing life through a separate host body — …

[7.0] A well-structured, lovingly-crafted sword and sorcery flick. Arnold Schwarzenegger, limited as he may be, was born for this role and Basil Poledouris’ score is among the best ever recorded for film. Writer/director John Milius seems rushed at times, but some scenes are extraordinarily polished. I love the first half-hour most of all. The death of Conan’s mother could not be done better. It’s all …

[6.0] Jupiter Ascending is probably the last big-budget studio picture from Andy & Lana Wachowski, the creators of The Matrix trilogy and some other movies that failed to live up to expectation. I admire the Wachowski’s ambition and I appreciate how they always try to push the envelope with content and execution. It’s not always a success, unfortunately. Jupiter Ascending is a huge, epic story …

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