Masters of the Universe (1987)

Director: Gary Goddard

Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Courtney Cox, James Tolkan, Christina Pickles, Meg Foster

Screenplay: David Odell

106 mins. Rated PG.

 

So there’s going to be a new Masters of the Universe film in a few years. With that, I figured it was time to revisit the infamous 1980s incarnation starring Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV, Aquaman). There are a lot of films that you can revisit years later and find a silver lining to. This will not be one of those reviews.

On the planet of Eternia, the villainous Skeletor (Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon, TV’s Kidding) have kidnapped the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull (Christina Pickles, The Wedding Singer, TV’s Break a Hip). He-Man (Lundgren) and his friends have a plan to save her, but when they fail to rescue the Sorceress, they escape using the Cosmic Key to a mystical place…called Earth. Now, they must recover the Key, return to Eternia, and defeat Skeletor once and for all.

This is not a good movie. It’s not good at all. Let’s start with literally the only thing that I think works in the film: Skeletor and Evil-Lyn. The two villains are pretty solid, even if they don’t get much to do. Langella is terrifically cheesy as Skeletor (his makeup effects are terrible, though) and Meg Foster (They Live, Overlord) is menacing as hell when adorned in her Evil-Lyn costume. I felt something almost Shakespearean in their portrayals, and in fact, they both site Shakespearean influences: Richard III for Langella and Lady Macbeth for Foster. While they both don’t have enough compelling dialogue or really much of anything to do in the film, I believe that they both put forth a solid amount of effort in elevating the material.

Now, onto the bad. First of all, I hate stories like this, where we take fantasy characters and remove the world, throwing them at Earth instead. Earth is boring, that’s why we go to the movies. Outside of Thor, this idea of traveling to Earth never works. It seems, for most of the film, that screenwriter David Odell (The Dark Crystal, Supergirl) knows nothing of the mythology of He-Man, and so removing Eternia from the equation makes us not have to worry about the mythology. Nothing that happens on Earth is interesting, whereas at least the stuff on Eternia has the ability to be engaging.

Then, there are distinct portions of the story that just don’t work. One of those elements is Gwildor, who replaces Orko from the source material. I just don’t understand why Orko is missing and this new incredibly annoying character has entered the mix. Gwildor is flat-out terrible.

The same can be said of this cosmic key device. Why is it necessary to the story to have the cosmic key played like a shitty synth musical instrument by everyone in the film? Why is this part of the story? It’s dumb and boring and serves no purpose.

I’d like to tell you that Dolph Lundgren plays He-Man well, but that’s not the case, and he’s the poster child for the lesson that you can look the part but you can’t always play the part. Lundgren survived most of the 1980s without any acting lessons, and if he’d taken the time to learn to perform, I think it would have served his career so much more than the brooding and the fighting.

Yes, just about everything in this film doesn’t work outside of Langella and Foster, and they’re doing their best. The studio had great faith in this film, and they had already prepped a sequel before this film under-performed. That sequel became the 1989 film Cyborg, but don’t ask me how that film was originally a Masters of the Universe sequel. This is a forgettable 80s film that should stay forgotten. Here’s hoping the new Masters of the Universe looks to this film for a case study of how not to handle the IP. Here’s hoping.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Ocean Master Patrick Wilson Returning for Aquaman 2

Patrick Wilson is a straight-up gem, and he was someone who just really understood the type of movie he was in with last year’s Aquaman. Wilson played Arthur’s half-brother Orm, the Ocean Master.

THR spoke with Wilson recently where he seemingly confirmed that will be returning for the sequel, which is also to be directed by the first film’s director, James Wan. Wan and Wilson have partnered on a number of releases in the past decade, so jot down Aquaman 2 as the next one.

You will never hear my complain about more Patrick Wilson and James Wan. I loved what they did with Insidious and The Conjuring, and for all of its flaws, I really had fun with Aquaman. It isn’t a great film by any stretch, and it’s silly and dumb and, at times, nonsensical, but it would be tough to talk to anyone who didn’t at least find it fun, and part of that was Patrick Wilson playing Orm as a mixture between Max von Sydow in Flash Gordon and Frank Langella in Masters of the Universe. He knows the cheese, and he embraces it well. Plus, he’s just got that undeniably-watchable quality to him.

So what do you think? Should Orm return for Aquaman 2 or should this story be moving onward without him? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

All the Way (2016)

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Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Anthony Mackie, Melissa Leo, Frank Langella, Stephen Root

Screenplay: Robert Schenkkan

132 mins. Rated TV-14.

 

In the newest film from HBO, Bryan Cranston (TV’s Breaking Bad, Get a Job) takes his award-winning performance from the stage to the screen. But does the play become a movie? Let’s find out.

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All the Way, from director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Trumbo), covers the role that Lyndon B. Johnson (Cranston) played as President after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Events from Johnson’s work with Martin Luther King Jr (Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker, Captain America: Civil War) are shown as well as Johnson’s bid for reelection during the following campaign.

All the Way has so many great performances. In fact, it’s what holds the entire film together. Led by the powerhouse work from Bryan Cranston and the incredible makeup work done to bring the President to life is stunning. He is nearly matched by Melissa Leo (TV’s Wayward Pines, The Fighter) as Lady Bird Johnson. I also liked Frank Langella (TV’s The Americans, Frost/Nixon) as Senator Richard Russell and Stephen Root (TV’s King of the Hill, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) as J. Edgar Hoover.

For flaws, All the Way suffers one of the most common issues of translating a play to the screen. It loses a lot of momentum as it moves. Jay Roach, an extremely capable director, struggles to keep the pacing up and moving throughout, and it shows near the final act of the film.

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Overall, All the Way is a perfect showcase for its cast (I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Bradley Whitford’s work as well), but it just can’t stand on its own legs as a true film. Not enough was done to properly adapt the work as Robert Schenkkan (TV’s The Andromeda Strain, The Quiet American) adapted his own work. Thankfully, the performances keep the film strong and evocative for most of the film. Still worthy of viewing? Most definite.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Draft Day (2014)

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Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Sam Elliot, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman

Screenplay: Scott Rothman, Rajiv Joseph

110 mins. Rated R for brief strong language.

 

I didn’t think I would enjoy Draft Day. I rented it because my brother enjoys sports movies. I also like Ivan Reitman, though his work as of late had been disappointing. I rented it because I thought it would be something I could recommend to my bro, or something I could tell him to steer clear of. That was it. Plus, it didn’t hurt that it was a movie.

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Draft Day is all about Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves, 3 Days to Kill) on the most important day of his career: Draft Day, a day on which Sonny might lose his job, due to his bad calls as a draft manager, or it could redeem him, as long as he doesn’t screw it up. His estranged romantic relationship with Ali (Jennifer Garner, TV’s Alias, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) continues to get tangled, as does his working relationship with Coach Penn (TV’s Rescue Me, Ice Age: Continental Drift). In fact, as Sonny keeps getting more and more risky with his choices throughout the day, he puts himself further and further into being let go from his job and losing all the connections that make his life mean something.

Kevin Costner does great work here, and the scenes in which he is actually interacting with others heighten their performances as well. You can see Sonny’s mind working to fix the situation that he keeps digging himself deeper and deeper into.

Draft Day uses some interesting cinematography and editing techniques to keep the pacing going. I didn’t actually realize that the movie is essentially two hours of talking, which it is.

I found it interesting that this film features three different actors from three separate iterations of Superman: Kevin Costner from Man of Steel, Frank Langella from Superman Returns, and Tom Welling from TV’s Smallville. I just thought you should know.

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Now, the film runs on a bit longer than it should and the football jargon confused me a bit, but I found myself excited for the enticing climax to come and I was not disappointed in the thrills of this movie. I really liked Draft Day a lot, and I feel like people who participate in fantasy football league drafts or even people that love the world of football will like it too. Give this one a go.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day? Touchdown or fumble? Let me know!

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