In today’s Journal, we look at the Ray Harryhausen-infused classic, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, the sword & sci-fi misfire KRULL, the non-bogus BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and the completely bonkers GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH.
SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 46
JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) – In ancient Greece, the gods decree that Pellas be allowed to overrun and take control of Thessaly. But they also decree that Pellas will later have his rule usurped by Jason, the son of Thessaly’s royal family. Pellas defies the gods and tries to kill the children, but Jason escapes. Years later, Jason returns and encounters Pellas without realizing who he is. Pellas tries to delay Jason by sending him on an impossible quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece at the other side of the world. Jason gathers an army of the greatest champions and embarks on his quest. Along the way, he encounters every kind of monster and danger imaginable.
This retelling of the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece is a classic, pure and simple. The special effects from the late, great Ray Harryhausen are still amazing to behold fifty years later. The action comes frequently and always has a certain charm to it. If it seems to move a little too quickly and stiffly, that was how epics of the time were often structured and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS crams a lot into its 104 minutes. This film has been a favorite of mine since childhood and comes highly recommended for anyone who likes their fantasy with a sense of movie magic. ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)
KRULL (1983) – The Beast takes residence on the distant world of Krull, a planet that seems basically like a Dungeons & Dragons-type wonderland. He decides he needs a bride and sets his sights on the princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony). How a 100-foot fall Carlo Rambaldi creation intended to consummate this relationship is something that I’ve always avoided thinking about. Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall), who was to marry Lyssa, sets out on a quest to discover the location of the Beast’s fortress and retrieve his lady fair. Along the way, he picks up a number of assorted character as well as a mystical weapon called a Glave.
Hopes were very high for this film in the summer of 1983. This is one of my sci-fi and fantasy films that the major studios tried to make bank on as the STAR WARS trilogy was wrapping up. KRULL is far more earnest than other films of the era. As a matter of fact, it’s probably too earnest. It’s very lofty when it has to be serious and is the standard slapstick when it isn’t. The lead actors, some of whom are dubbed, are pretty drab, none moreso than Marhsall (One exception: Freddie Francis, the acclaimed director and cinematographer, delivers a fine performance). The actual confrontation with the Beast is also a bit of a disappointment as the Beast is obscured through trick photography and yet still doesn’t seem to move so well.
Still, there is a certain goofy charm to KRULL. It’s over two hours of fantasy adventure that does entertain even if it takes itself a bit too seriously. For that reason, it still keeps me smiling all these years later and I would gladly watch it over another certain fantasy epic involving a bunch of singing dwarves. ★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989) – Bill and Ted are two dim-witted California slackers who have dreams of making it big as rock stars, despite not knowing how to play. If they fail their history final however, Ted will be shipped off to military school in Alaska and the two will be split up for good. This simply won’t do, so a time traveler from a utopian future named Rufus (George Carlin) travels back in time and gives them use of a time machine (which humorously resembles Doctor Who’s TARDIS). Bill and Ted go to various points in history to collect iconic figures and bring them out to help with their history final.
This is such a silly little movie and I knew it was going to be a hit as soon as I heard about it. Unlike the uneven sequel, it’s colorful and upbeat and lets you know right away that if you are looking for a good time at the movies, it’s here to deliver. Things are brisk and funny and Winter and Reeves are indeed charming in the leads. ★★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990) – Years after the events of the first film, a wealthy mogul named Daniel Clamp (John Glover) demolishes and then renovates the area where Gizmo called home. Gizmo is kidnapped by two underlings who do scientific experiments for… Daniel Clamp. Cut to a grown-up Billy (Zach Galligan), now married to Kate (Phoebe Cates – va va va vooom), and struggling in his job working for… Daniel Clamp. Yeah, there’s a lot of coincidences here. And of course, people ignore the rules and create a new army of gremlins. But unlike the other gremlins, many of these have their own personalities, which are only accentuated once they get their claws on all the chemical concoctions in the Clamp science department.
GREMLINS 2 is the Joe Dante-ist of Joe Dante films. It’s as if he was given carte blanche on this film, provided he delivered a sequel to his biggest cash cow. Dante takes this and goes nuts. More of a straight comedy than the first film, GREMLINS 2 features a cast of wonderful character actors and iconic figures, all scrambling to makes sense of the situation. And why not? The gremlins after all, pride themselves on chaos. And chaos is what you get here. The film may wear out its welcome, but not without delivering a lot of chuckles along the way. GREMLINS 2 is a pretty unique film. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 213
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