The Call

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The Call may not be original and while predictable, it’s a tense, high concept thriller from the get go. For a nail-biting time that incorporates action and a game cast, The Call is just the ticket.

Jordan Turner( Halle Berry) is a seasoned 9-1-1 operator working for the Los Angeles Police Department. She’s very good at her job, until she is left shaken by one particular night. A terrified young girl by the name of Leah calls telling Jordan that there is someone breaking into her house. Jordan advises the girl to hide from the intruder but keep the phone on so she can help. Unfortunately, interference causes the call to end. Scared of what might have happened, Jordan calls back the number. By calling back, the madman is alerted to Leah’s whereabouts. He snatches the girl and her body is found a day later. Jordan is left suffering nightmares of immense guilt as she tries to cope with feelings of culpability and a sense of responsibility that won’t let her rest.  Months later and Jordan no longer works an an operator following the botched operation, instead she trains those going into the job. She is still traumatised by what happened but is going to be brought back into the fold once more. Teenager Casey Welson( Abigail Breslin) is kidnapped while in the parking lot of a mall. She manages to contact emergency services which puts her onto Jordan. The problem is that Casey is using a disposable phone that belongs to a friend who left it when they were out shopping. With it being very difficult to decipher the whereabouts of Casey, Jordan has to keep her on the line and hopefully alive long enough for help to get to her. The man who snatched Casey has dark motives for doing so and as we see throughout, is not above committing more murder to cover up his plans. We discover his name is Michael Foster(Michael Eklund) and that he’s been kidnapping blonde girls in particular to murder over the past few months. With this knowledge, Jordan summons all of her wits to help Casey as best she can. The question is can Jordan save from an almost certain death against the odds and finally have some closure?

Brad Anderson, who I know from directing the much underrated and sinister Session 9, is on fine fettle with his efficient touches to this fast moving thriller. It ratchets up the suspense early on and doesn’t really let up, thanks to Anderson’s exciting and crisp direction which mainly takes place in claustrophobic spaces. Most effective are the scenes of Jordan guiding Casey through attempts of escaping the car she’s been locked in the boot of. The final half is somewhat flawed and isn’t quite in keeping with the rest of the film, but The Call by that point has generated a lot in the way of suspense and action that it’s foibles can be forgiven. proves to be quite a nail-biting film. While it’s hardly reaching for anything deep, The Call does what it says on the tin and thrills. Fast cuts, intense close us and occasional freeze frames heighten a adrenaline induced atmosphere. This is most effective in the opening of tracking shots and overlapping voices displaying the tough work done by operators on a daily basis and later as Jordan keeps a trapped Casey talking  in what escalates into a nerve wracking game of potential discovery and terror. It’s a predictable film but one that still has you on edge with unease and tension. A pulsing score is a good little element that accretes this movie as atmosphere increases as the search goes on.

The reasonably small cast is something that lifts The Call higher than it would be otherwise. Halle Berry heads things with a good mix of grit and vulnerability that makes her sympathetic to the audience. We feel for her and it’s a good showcase for Berry, who has been in some bad movies and who I’d love to see get more roles to show off her skills. Thankfully, The Call provides her with a good role and she more than rises to the occasion with a strong performance that adds a certain weight to proceedings. Abigail Breslin does very well too, even if her main function is too panic and look terrified as the kidnapping victim. What makes her stand out is her rapport with Berry, even though they aren’t actually together for a lot of the film. Her resilience begins to build and Breslin really shows that. Both ladies compliment the other and it proves mutually beneficial in the long run. As the main antagonist, Michael Eklund really stands out by making the part so eerily creepy and repellant. He has this intense state going and the kind of look that sets your nerves on edge, crafting a palpable sense of menace that goes a long way. In short, Eklund was perfect casting for the role of serial killer with a deeply twisted modus operandi. Morris Chestnut appears as Jordan’s boyfriend and cop, though he’s not really given much material to work with. Standing out in a supporting turn as a rather unlucky passer by who attempts to help Casey and soon gets into an ill-fated situation, Michael Imperioli makes his mark here.  

So it has its flaws and is not going to be seen as some masterwork of the thriller genre, The Call has its great moments that make it a sinister and effective movie. Add in skilled direction and Halle Berry once more showing off her talent and The Call is definitely entertaining viewing for an audience looking for a tense time. 

50 First Dates

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Delightfully funny and surprisingly touching romantic comedy, enlivened by burgeoning and fantastic chemistry from Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, 50 First Dates is a cut above a lot of romantic comedies. 

Henry Roth(Adam Sandler) is a womanising, love them and leave them guy who works as a marine vet in Hawaii. His usual policy is to make up fabricated stories with attractive tourists, give them a good time then leave them . That is until one day he walks into his local diner and spots the beautiful art teacher Lucy Whitmore(Drew Barrymore). But with Lucy it’s different as he finds himself feeling love for the first proper time. This budding romance however is dampened by the news he receives the following day. and being rejected by her, it’s explained to him that Lucy was in a car accident a year prior. The injuries she sustained have rendered her without the ability to create new memories, so every morning she wakes up thinking it’s the day of the accident but doesn’t know about the trauma. All her memories from before the accident are there which include the preparations for her father’s birthday; it’s the forming of new memories that’s the problem. Her protective father Marlin( Blake Clark)and steroid using brother Doug( Sean Astin) have even made it look like it’s the same day as a re-enactment as they don’t want her to deal with the emotional turmoil and knowledge of what happened to her. With this knowledge that the woman he cares for has short term amnesia, vows not to give up on what he sees as his shot at proper love. are none too pleased with this and warn Henry against pursuing this. But Henry is nothing if not determined to continue a romance, even if it means having to recount every day to Lucy in the hopes of breaking through her gaps in memory. With the help of a video camera and a diary, he might just do the trick, or so he hopes as he resolves to win her each day. Will romance blossom in this unlikely and unusual relationship that is fraught with setback yet filled with hope? You’ll have to watch in order to find out.

Peter Segal directs with a real feel and sweetness, which makes 50 First Dates flow very well. The location of Hawaii is a gorgeous backdrop for the film it must be said and a joy to view.While it still has some hallmarks of what you expect in a film starring Adam Sandler such as a bit of gross out humour and questionable elements , 50 First Dates is a far more gentle affair with warmth and an unexpected depth in parts. Not all of it works but it has a bit more edge than your average romantic comedy and I commend it for that. Plus, you find yourself really caring for the two characters at the heart of it. Sometimes in films of this ilk, the characters can mjst become. Thankfully, 50 First Dates actually delves into these characters and let’s us experience things with them. Hats off to the film for allowing that to happen and not just settling for the same old story. That’s not to say it’s flawless( some supporting characters and parts aren’t that great it has to be stated), but it definitely rises above other movies within the genre. A nice selection of familiar songs , done to a reggae style is also a treat for the viewer.

Adam Sandler is often an actor I can take or leave, but he’s just right here. He dials down on the frat boy antics and stupidity, choosing to okay things with humour but relatively straight. This approach works and it’s one of Sandler’s least irritating performances. Drew Barrymore is the MVP here contributing a genuine, lovely and luscious performance. Barrymore is the possessor of one of the most adorable and sunny dispositions to be put on film and it’s used beautifully here. Rather than just be a sad character, she lets us feel how Lucy is a happy girl slowly realising that romance isn’t easy due to her condition  and her desire to remember is supremely touching and filled with a sense of hope. I think that as a film, 50 First Dates has an ace in the hole in the chemistry between these two that is totally infectious. Rob Schneider has a few laughs as Henry’s stoner friend, but becomes a nuisance as the film progresses. More believable and standing out are Blake Clark and Sean Astin as the concerned father and brother of Lucy. They bounce off one another with humour and character, particularly Astin as a steroid loving wannabe bodybuilder who thinks he’s tough, yet is a long way from that. Kudos to Dan Aykroyd as well for a very good turn as Lucy’s wisecracking doctor. 

So all in all, 50 First Dates is an enjoyably funny, gentle and romance that hugely benefits from the rapport of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore and a deftly told story of a different but lovely coupling.

Happy Birthday Drew Barrymore

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Today, the lovable Drew Barrymore turns 46. She started as a child star, most notably in E.T, before going through a rough time of partying and drugs. Cleaning up her act, she emerged as a successful grown up actress who has never looked back. I find there is something very real and personable about Drew. I can’t explain it, but I do love her a lot. She’s got a glow about her and just lifts a project up.

Lake Placid

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A horror-comedy hybrid about a giant crocodile terrorising a quiet Maine waterway, Lake Placid is something of a mixed bag. For all the flashes of humour and parts that have great tension, the rest of the enterprise fails to impress with the script straddling actors with roles that aren’t that interesting. Still, it’s a fun if slightly forgettable movie but it has some entertainment value amid its often confused identity .

A brutal attack that renders a scuba diver cut in half on Black Lake, Maine, raises immense concern for the safety of others. Gruff Sheriff Hank Keough( Brendan Gleeson) ,who was there with the river but didn’t see what killed him is understandably worried about the future at this point. He is soon joined by a diverse group of people from different fields who arrive to discover just what caused this bloody death. We have the calm and collected Fish and Game Warden Jack Wells( Bill Pullman) , who is skilled in the art of sarcasm. Following him is uptight and prissy palaeontologist  Kelly Scott( Bridget Fonda)who is assigned following a botched fling with her boss and is there because the fragment of an unidentified but very sharp tooth was discovered in the body, though she is not prepared for outdoor conditions in the slightest . And finally we have the eccentric mythology expert Hector Cyr( Oliver Platt) with oodles of money and not much in the way of tact. At first, some think it might be the result of a bear, though Hector is convinced that it is from a crocodile as he is something of an expert in that field. Everyone begins butting heads over the best course of action for the still unseen predator, but soon everyone must band together when terror strikes. It transpires that the creature in the lake is in fact a 30 ft saltwater crocodile that has a rather ferocious appetite. The rag tag group has to decide what to do before they end up as the beast’s next meal. But will any of them actually survive the carnage to tell the tale?

The directing of Steve Miner is passable enough and at least the running time is quite short which means Lake Placid is at least not a long movie. I must give kudos to some great set pieces that give bite to a muddled film. One really stands out for the suspense it induces. In it, the unusual Hector ,who believes that crocodiles are mythological and that he is immune to danger as he’s never been attacked, finds himself in the lake with the beast right behind him. His mix of awe and fear is palpable as it draws closer to him as if studying his every move and patiently waiting to pounce. If only the rest of the film could have been this thrilling, Lake Placid would have had it mad. Miner does very well in these parts, but can’t save the whole exercise from a feeling of lethargy. The script is the point of contention here. Scripted by David E. Kelley, who is known for rapid fire and very dry dialogue, some parts of his ideas work. They just end up feeling repetitive and juvenile as it goes on which doesn’t help matter. Some of it really has a snap too it with some humorous exchanges, but it ends up not mixing with the horror elements effectively.  At least Lake Placid looks good from a visual standpoint and the crocodile is rendered very well, it helps that we only see snippets of it before it lets loose. Stan Winston and his skilful animatronic work, blended with some pretty nifty CGI, make the predatory crocodile intense and believable, even if the film that houses it is not. The music is decent enough at dialling up notches of tension when it needs to but is nothing groundbreaking.

As the leads, we have Bill Pullman and Bridget Fonda. Both are actors I admire and have seen plenty of great work from. The thing is both are somewhat left with roles that don’t stretch them or really let them come alive. Pullman comes off better with his casual attitude and sarcasm providing a few great moments. Unfortunately Fonda is saddled with an annoying character which even her considerable talents can save. The part is whiny, bitchy and often obnoxious . Make no mistake, Bridget Fonda does what she can with material, she’s just left all at sea with a part that should have been better written. The best acting comes from Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Platt, who form something of a chalk and cheese duo who are always at each other’s throats. Gleeson is all scowling, not too bright but authoritative law enforcement, while Platt is out there ideas and an overzealous dedication to his vision that puts everyone in danger. Together the two are a complete blast, sparking off the other with witty retorts and snarling disdain that gives Lake Placid a much needed shot in the arm when it really needs it. They are by far the most entertaining actors and characters here it must be said. And if we are speaking of scene stealing, there’s a very amusing and outrageous small but memorable role for Betty White. She’s loud, foul mouthed and all knowing, plus clearly having a blast in a part you wouldn’t expect from her. I loved it whenever she appeared on screen and went for the jugular with her attitude.

So taking everything into account, Lake Placid is a daft, sometimes funny and scary film. But it just could have mingled better when melding the genres for my liking. It has its good parts though so at least that is something to take away.

R.I.P Christopher Plummer

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I just saw the news that actor Christopher Plummer has passed away aged 91. He had a simply stellar career that lasted for seven impressive decades. He’s truly one of the greats who leaves us with so many films to watch him in. I mean just looking through his credits, he was nothing if not prolific and he had immense staying power.  I raise my glass to salute Christopher Plummer.

Cast Away

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A riveting and emotionally investing drama of survival against the odds aided by a stellar Tom Hanks performance at the heart of it, Cast Away definitely sticks in the mind for the right reasons and should be watched by all.

It’s 1995 and Chuck Noland( Tom Hanks) is a time obsessed Fed Ex analyst executive who travels the world and sorts out problems within the delivery company. He’s extremely efficient in his job though it often comes at the cost of seeing his girlfriend Kelly(Helen Hunt) at their home in Memphis. After Christmas dinner, Chuck gets a call that he’s needed in Malaysia. Before departing, he gives Kelly a present of an engagement ring, but tells her not to open it because he’ll be back by New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately things don’t pan out for him as he hoped. A storm hits his plane while travelling across the Pacific and Chuck survives after it crashes, due to finding a lifeboat amid the terrifying chaos of the crash. After floating for a night, Chuck washes up on a deserted island scared and alone with seemingly no form of rescue to speak of. Now the man who was always thinking of time is on a deserted islands with only a few packages that survived the crash to use. All the while, Chuck contends with the future and vacillates between desperation and hope as the island becomes his place of residence in an unthinkable and extraordinary situation. He makes a number of attempts to escape the island, which prove futile at first as he is not what you’d call an expert in the wilderness. Gradually, he manages to think of ways to survive( like fashioning a shelter from one of the packages and its content before taking up residence in a cave) and carry on, even personalising a volleyball which he calls Wilson and speaks to in order to avoid the fact that there is no human life in sight. But if he does manage to return to civilisation with one of his plans, what will await him?

Robert Zemeckis fashions a deeply felt survival drama and saga into something special and attention grabbing throughout. Considering most of the film is Chuck by himself , it doesn’t feel dull, instead emitting a depiction of surviving against the odds and what the human spirit can do. And Zemeckis knows how to keep you glued, which is clearly on show in the intense and striking sequence of the plane going down into the sea. Credit must be given to the script, which while not featuring a bell of a lot of dialogue, manages to chart the journey into becoming someone else and learning to adapt . And some moments of Cast Away are surprising and don’t turn out quite the way you expected, which makes for more interesting viewing. Now I must say that the running time of Cast Away does feel a tad excessive later on, but that shouldn’t take away from the excellent skill on show in the main crux of the story. It seems that when Cast Away comes back to civilisation, despite some moving moments present, it flounders in not quite knowing what to do to satisfy the audience and make the story work. But the majority of this wonderful movie on the island are extremely amazing and not even a few lulls and flaws can detract from this very human story about having to survive the best you can and what isolation can do to a person. It’s both an emotional and physical journey for the protagonist( having much in common with Robinson Crusoe if it was made a bit more contemporary) and we’re with him every step of the way as he discovers how he must live and be in order to make it out alive and back to safety. Moments that could have been laughable such as having Chuck striking up a friendship with a volleyball are instead very moving and fascinating in showing how Chuck’s own mind is eroded throughout his arduous time on the island, coupled with his ingenuity and alternating despair. As Chuck tests things out and little by little learns to adapt to his newfound surroundings, we share his varying feelings. Noticeable throughout is that their is no narration from our main character, which I’ve seen done in films of a similar vein. Plus, the score is very minimal and only really spears in the latter stages of this dramatic story. Instead it’s the sound of the island( the waves, wind, nature )that make up the aural atmosphere and give hints of authenticity instead of shamelessly manipulating our feelings. It also emphasises the feeling of being solitary and having only nature and feelings of uncertainty surrounding you. Plus, the location work is second to none and presented in strange but wonderful glory as a solitary place and one where a man undergoes a transformation 

Tom Hanks is a veritable one man show in a role that deservedly saw him nominated for an Oscar. He goes through a complete journey and makes it feel so honest and moving. Hanks famously lost weight to convey years of being stranded and it shows his dedication, while the fact that he’s on screen virtually by himself let’s him display his immense talent and how he can hold the attention of an audience. He journeys through desperation, inventiveness, resignation, elation, sadness and many other emotions throughout and never misses a beat. All in all, Tom Hanks and his physical as well as emotionally convincing performance are what truly keeps Cast Away a movie to watch. I really can’t imagine anyone else in this role and delivering it so excellently and believably. Helen Hunt, despite limited screen time, provides enough warmth and grace as Chuck’s girlfriend. It’s true she works wonders with a small role that has a big impact. But Cast Away is clearly the showcase for Tom Hanks throughout and what it’ll be chiefly remembered for by the audience watching this movie. 

So lulls aside when it leaves the arduous but extraordinary journey at the centre, Cast Away is handsomely made, incredibly stirring and sublimely acted mostly by the powerful Tom Hanks.

Conan the Destroyer

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With Conan the Barbarian being a success, it was inevitable that a sequel would follow. And while Conan the Destroyer has its good moments, it doesn’t quite compare with its predecessor.

The warrior that is Conan(Arnold Schwarzenegger) is still alive and mourning the death of his lover Valeria. He is now joined by clumsy Malak(Tracey Walter), a thief who can’t help but get himself in trouble because of his magpie like love of jewels. He comes across the mysterious Queen Taramis(Sarah Douglas)who offers him a deal. She will using her magical powers being back the love of his life on one condition. Conan must escort her niece, the naive and virginal Princess Jehnna(Olivia d’Abo) , to retrieve a magical gem that will lead the way to the horn of an ancient God. Jehnna must do this as it is her destiny and Queen Taramis insists on it. What no one realises is that the ruthless and sly Taramis is in fact plotting to sacrifice Jehnna in order to use the power of the horn for nefarious purposes. She assigns her trusted Captain of the guard Bombaata(Wilt Chamberlain) to join the quest, but kill Conan once the jewel is obtained. So Conan, Malak and the rest of the venturing group begin their journey to find the fabled jewel. Along the way, Conan frees a fighter called Zula; who he finds being tormented and forced to scrap in chains with brutal villagers. As thanks for setting her free, the feral Zula joins Conan’s quest and proves to be a vital ally. The quest is perilous and fraught with danger, especially when Conan uncovers the deceit at the heart of it. Now it’s a battle to stop the evil power of Taramis from taking over.

In the directors seat this time is Richard Fleischer, who at least manages to make this film watchable and reasonably entertaining. Although the tonal shifts are all over the place, Fleischer is at his best with the action scenes and danger, which does help in the long run. While no one would consider the first Conan movie high art, it at least had some form of grit to it. I’m fine with incorporating humour into films but it feels a bit much in Conan the Destroyer. It starts pretty well with humour and action benefiting each other. Then things go south as idiotic occurrences happen and mount up. The first film had some humour but it was controlled and it felt a little more brutal than your average fantasy outing. It wasn’t deadbeat drama throughout, but it at least had some sense of stakes being high. Conan the Destroyer seems to forget this and just chuck things at us in ridiculously rapid speed. Yes I did say that the first film was overstretched with its runtime, but this sequel is too quick and rushed. And events feel a bit watered down and not as brutal as before, which does hamper events in this movie as it feels a bit too light and humorous. I believe behind the scenes there was a conscious decision to tone down the gore in order to increase box office takings, I think they still could have been successful even with more bloodshed and brutality on show.  Now things aren’t all bad in Conan the Destroyer, there are actually moments of greatness to be discovered. I’ll admit sometimes the goofy atmosphere is fun and once again the set pieces are rather fantastic. One in a hall of mirrors is very well executed, thanks to sterling production design and action present. This movie is most enjoyable when it’s serving up action and fantasy, instead of trying to make the film more child friendly.The score doesn’t let the audience down, providing boundless adventure and majesty to the film courtesy of Basil Poledouris. It’s again a highlight for how it immerses us in this fantasy world. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger is once again an imposing presence as the titular fighter on another quest. He gets the and when the humour lands , he succeeds while still casting a long shadow of skill in the fighting department. Though it is very strange to hear Schwarzenegger talk as much as he does. Previously, he only speaks a number of lines which adds to his impact as we are more focused on his actions. Though this is a niggle, Schwarzenegger is still an amazing Conan and delivers the goods you want. Grace Jones, of striking bone structure, agile yet rippling physique and high top fade hairstyle, acts as a great asset to Conan and the movie. Her very stare projects a menace and aggression of a warrior, complete with the fact that she’s always on the prowl. Jones lends her unique look, wild abandon and electric being to Conan the Destroyer and lights up the screen every time she’s on it. Wilt Chamberlain, who was a basketball player of immense height, has the physical goods to deliver a slippery turn as the wavering Captain who you just know is going to stab you in the back if you’re not careful. Tracey Walter is passable enough as Conan’s latest sidekick, though his clumsy antics get a bit repetitive as the film continues. More effective is Mako, returning as the wise and all seeing wizard who balances seriousness with some levity. However Olivia d’Abo is pretty grating and irritating as the innocent princess, mainly because she’s so naive and the character is pretty bland to begin with. This isn’t helped by her delivery of lines which is stilted and without resonance. I get that she’s supposed to be sheltered and immature, but she mainly comes off as a pain. Sarah Douglas does villain shtick very well while being darkly seductive at the same time. 

Conan the Destroyer has bright spots to it and has a fun, goofy quality, it just feels rather redundant and watered down when it could have been better

Conan the Barbarian

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Based on the character in pulp comics and featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger in an early role that put him on the map just before he hit superstardom , Conan the Barbarian is nothing if not a dazzling, testosterone filled action-adventure fantasy that has its share of problems but is still riotously entertaining and a fun ride to experience.

In Ancient times, a young boy by the name of Conan is the son of a blacksmith and a loving mother. Unfortunately, brutality strikes when the followers of the evil cult leader Thulsa Doom( James Earl Jones) attack his village. His father is wounded and then mauled to death by dogs, while Doom himself hypnotises Conan’s mother before beheading her in front of her terrified son. Doom then takes a powerful sword owned by Conan’s father before leaving the carnage in his wake. The children of the village are spared and sold into slavery, being charged with pushing a giant wheel in back breaking fashion. Over the years of pushing the wheel, Conan( now played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a muscle bound mountain of a man with incredible strength. He becomes a gladiator of immense renown and is taught many things by his master. Later he is set free into the wild, which is where he starts trying to track down Thulsa Doom, where he discovers an ancient sword, a strange prophecy and encounters three important people in his quest . Firstly he meets thief and archer Subotai(Gerry Lopez) , then he encounters beautiful and lethal bandit Valeria(Sandahl Bergman). Lastly there is Akiro the Wizard(Mako), who provides the narration for the film. Valeria and Subotai are soon faithful friends and in the case of Valeria, a romantic interest who assist Conan on his journey, while Akiro instils wisdom and prophecy. The trio of wonderers hear of a jewel that they decide to steal, mainly because the snake symbol is something that Conan believes will lead him to his nemesis. They are then summoned by the old King Osric( Max Von Sydow), who knows they stole the jewel but doesn’t wish to imprison them, he actually wants their help. His daughter has fell under the influence of Thulsa Doom and he wants Conan and his friends to retrieve her for a good reward. They decide to accept this offer as Conan continues on his path of vengeance hoping to meet Doom and enact brutality upon him as retribution for what he did to his family.

John Milius and his work here are the definition of macho and it’s perfectly suited to this kind of film. He’s the well appointed director of Conan the Barbarian and he keeps events ticking over, even when it gets a bit laboured and indulgent towards the end. got what you want from a swords and sorcery; lots of violent action( standout being the opening raid on Conan’s childhood village), unusual fantasy, well muscled heroes and buxom ladies, alongside traps, tricks and magic. And it’s unapologetic and upfront about it too which is rather refreshing in that way, especially as the violence isn’t sugarcoated . The action set pieces are staged with verve and efficiency, making them very memorable as Conan fights his way across a desolate land. Now at two hours, Conan the Barbarian does feel a bit longwinded in the grand scheme of things and that is a flaw. But for the majority, the adventure, excitement and brutality of the movie is done to a high standard. You don’t need to invest intellect into the story as it’s pretty much what you’d expect. Though that, in my book at least, is not something that should be seen as a fault. Sometimes it’s great to go into a movie that takes you to another place and doesn’t require you to think about it deeply. And I for one don’t mind when a movie does that when it does it as well as Conan the Barbarian. Sure it’s not going to stimulate your mind in a sense of depth, but who can begrudge this swords and sorcery concoction that simply wants to thrill? Saying this however, it feels more rough and gritty than some fantasy and that does make it stand out a bit from the crowd. It’s not Shakespeare by any stretch of the imagination, but nor is it trying to be. So sit back and lap it up the best way you can with enjoyment in mind and thrills by the minute . The largely practical effects are decent for their time, though looking through modern eyes they look rather dated. Still at least the film isn’t overblown when it comes to effects, instead when they are used in scenes of the spirits healing but also attempting to snatch our hero away and a fireside vision by a seductive but lethal witch, they are impactful. And the look of Conan the Barbarian is one of its strongest aspects with the vast open spaces, mountainous terrain and creepy atmosphere of the opulent Snake Cult rendered with great detail. Things feel epic here and this contributes well in keeping the whole highly charged atmosphere alive. One of the finest elements of Conan the Barbarian is the stupendous score from Basil Poledouris. With thundering drums aplenty and a sweeping scope that benefits the action, it’s one score you won’t forget in a hurry.

Arnold Schwarzenegger heads proceedings as the eponymous warrior out for revenge and makes quite an impression. Physically, he is a hulking being that is intimidating and strong from the moment we see him and the fact he doesn’t speak a lot adds to this feeling of immense presence. Schwarzenegger isn’t known for being the finest actor out there, but his work here is an example of fantastic casting as he exudes strength, intense vengeance and physicality throughout. I can’t imagine anyone else filling the role of Conan quite as effectively as Schwarzenegger. Embodying an eerily menacing villainy, James Earl Jones is the ideal counterpart to our hero. He’s got such a chilling presence( mainly through that iconic voice)throughout that comes from his seeming calmness that belies inner psychopathic tendencies. Gerry Lopez provides some comic relief and sense of friendship as the skilled thief Subotai . He works well against with Schwarzenegger; the two of them being opposites physically but in terms of mindset definitely on the ball and understanding of each other. Ferocity and athleticism is provided by Sandahl Bergman with added doses of sex appeal to boot . Though not what you’d call the most versatile or nuanced performer, Bergman nonetheless contributes a physical charm and action to that can’t be denied . Mako and his off the wall appeal that is twinned with his impressive narration adds a layer of epic awesomeness to Conan the Barbarian. The only person who feels wasted is the great Max Von Sydow as the elderly king. Someone of his calibre should at least have been given more to work with, even if his role is small.  Most of the acting isn’t what you’d call award worthy, but not is it trying to be. The cast is called upon to play these characters in a certain way and they each do what the film demands handsomely.

So aside from some flaws along the way, Conan the Barbarian still stands out as a fantastic spectacle of action and fantasy that is enjoyably full of action set pieces and sweeping spectacle.