‘Warcraft’ Review

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Director: Duncan Jones

Writers: Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt

Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin, Callum Keith Rennie, Burkely Duffield, and Ryan Robbins.

Synopsis: The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Before I start, I should be noted to everyone: I have never played World of Warcraft. So everything in this review is purely based on what is in the film. I know very little to nothing at all of the games, so I don’t want anyone out there reading this that has played the games to curse me out because I got something wrong.

The film starts by showing us the world of the orcs, which is dying, and a dark mage Gul’dan (Wu), who uses the powerful dark magic called The Fel, has opened a portal to the world of Azeroth. However, the magic and portal isn’t strong enough to bring through all the orcs, so horde lead by Gul’dan, Blackhand (Brown), Durotan (Kebbell), Orgrim (Kazinksy), and others go through to capture humans. The reason being is that Gul’dan needs souls to keep the portal open long enough.

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Meanwhile, a mage-in-training, Khadgar (Schnetzer) has sensed the portal opening and The Fel, so he goes to warn King Llane (Cooper) about the danger soon to come. Llane enlists his brother-in-law and commander of his army Lothar (Fimmel) to stop the orcs from taking over their lands. Lothar does have help in Khadgar, a half-breed named Garona (Patton) and a powerful mage, and guardian of Azeroth, Medivh (Foster). What the humans don’t know is that Durotan fears The Fel and Gul’dan from making things worse and decides that working the humans might be his kinds only hope.

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Now, there is a lot going on in Warcraft, and I do mean, a lot. That’s not necessarily, a bad thing in a movie, but what will make-or-break a movie is if everything works seemingly throughout. Unfortunately, Warcraft stumbles a bit on that. Not every plot point and story works, or when it does it leads to nothing or an underwhelming resolution. Again, not every plot point or story is this way, some of the work. When the film focuses on a linear story and characters, it works in full force.

It’s one of the great things that director Duncan Jones does in the movie. He gives sides, orcs and humans, their fair share of screen time to make us understand both sides of what’s going on, and makes them tick. Durotan gets the better arc, for the main characters of him and Lothar, as the hero orc doing what he thinks is best for his people. It also gives us something so we can sympathize with the orcs, since you know, they’re not real and makes us connect with the CGI characters.

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The human cast is fine, since I can’t really talk about the orc actors since they are all covered in CGI and their voices are distorted, which is fine since I don’t think any of us expect to hear human voices coming out of an orc. That of course doesn’t take away anything from those actors and their performances. And the CGI for the film is pretty great, but the only real orcs that get good screen time is Toby Kebbell’s Durotan (he also plays another small role in the film), who is arguably the most developed and complete character in the whole film. Next to him would be the villain Gul’dan played by Daniel Wu.

Travis Fimmel gives off a cocky but confident warrior that is respected by the others soldiers, which I’ll admit, his cockiness put me off at times. He is given, albeit it felt forced, storyline that pays off at the end. Ben Schnetzer’s Khadgar is one of the cooler human characters and seemed to enjoy his time ranting off spells and has a lot to offer in the film, but doesn’t get to, which is a shame. Paula Patton’s half-breed character Garona doesn’t really pop until the last half of the film where it takes an interesting turn, but we never see the real fallout of it, which is extremely disappointing. Ben Foster as The Guardian/Medivh pops when he shares scenes with Fimmel and Schnetzer. Dominic Cooper’s King Llane and Ruth Negga’s Lady Taria don’t do too much, with the expectation of Cooper during the final act of the film.

Again, I’ve never played the games, so I’m sure there are references and nods to the games or other material that maybe would have helped me be more into the film. This is one of the big things the film was set to face: dealing with non-fans. I’ll admit that I wasn’t looking forward to the film that much, but there was enough in the film to make me really enjoy myself while watching.

LEEROY JENKINS!

LEEROY JENKINS!

The only real gripe I have with the film is that it doesn’t feel completed. The film leaves itself way too open for sequel for my liking. It might be picky, considering we now live in a world filled with franchise starters and sequels, but Warcraft takes that to the extreme. It’s bold for Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures to think fans will drive out in droves (or hordes) to watch the adaptation. But, for non-fans or people that don’t know anything about the world or characters, it leaves a bitter taste and feeling.

All in all, Warcraft will hopefully have enough for non-fans of the games to grab on to. The CGI for the orcs is fantastic and Toby Kebbell’s Durotan is the standout of all the characters. The film stumbles trying to control all the plot points and while some work better than others, the film still leaves some story to be desired, and it feels unfinished it some cases.

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Warcraft

3.5 out of 5

‘Dracula Untold’ Review

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Dir:  Gary Shore

Cast: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Paul Kaye, Diarmaid Murtagh, Noah Huntley, and Charles Dance

Synopsis: Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes makes a deal with dangerous supernatural forces – whilst trying to avoid succumbing to the darkness himself.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

Dracula is probably, if not, the best known vampire of all time. His story has been told many times in the past and has always been connected to the historical figure Vlad ‘The Impaler.” Dracula Untold is no different. While, I have seen the character of Dracula as a somewhat tragic figure – having to live with immortality and the need to drink blood all the time – director Gary Shore’s movie tries to bring that to the forefront, but the way Shore goes about it was not the best way to go about it. It also doesn’t help that Shore also relies on CGI bats to carry an action scene.

 

The movie starts with a narration telling us that in the 1400s, the Turkish Empire stole young boys to fight in their army. Among them was Vlad (Evans), who become a legendary warrior for killing so many and for impaling them to wooden spikes. When the war ended, he went to live a quiet and peaceful life as Prince Vlad in Transylvania with his wife Mirena (Gadon) and son Ingeras (Parkinson). We then go to the Vlad and his men encountering what is Turkish Scout armor in a river but no sign of the actual men. It turns out that lived in peace with the Turkish Empire but soon a Turkish ruler Mehmed (Cooper) comes to claim the young boys from the castle, including Ingeras.

 

Vlad takes offensive to this and ends up killing the troop sent to collect his son. When he realizes he has sign his people’s safety, he goes to the mountains to make a deal with the Master Vampire (Dance). Vlad wants the power to protect his family and people but the Master Vampire tricks Vlad into drinking his blood to get his powers but with a catch: he has to resist feeding for three days to become mortal again, or stay as a vampire forever.

 

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It’s hard to suspend some disbelief for the movie knowing how it’s going to turn out. And if you think that’s a spoiler than well I’m sorry. However, it’s the journey that counts, and for some parts, Dracula Untold did have some great moments, and I use some very loosely. Like I said earlier, I do see Dracula as a somewhat tragic figure, and the movie does try to play with that. Vlad isn’t a villain, although he has done bad things, he saw them as a way to stop more bad things from happening. All he wants his family to be safe and to live in peace, but is constantly reminded that he has done evil things and as a character says to him “you’ll always have that in you.” So it makes his decision to make a deal with the Master Vampire slightly understandable.

 

The meeting between Vlad and Master Vampire, I think is one of the best scenes in the movie. Despite the small amount of CG involved in the scene, it’s a great back and forth between two great actors in Luke Evans and Charles Dance. The scene involves a lot of mythology and starts to turn the movie into a fantastical territory. I also wish there was a lot more of it and sometimes it did feel a bit rushed but it serves its purpose.

 

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Speaking of the acting, Dracula Untold belongs to Luke Evans. He gives Vlad the perfect amount of humanity to makes feel his suffering, but can also makes us a bit uneasy when he vamps out. Dance, although only having a couple scenes is terrifying as the Master Vampire. Sarah Gadon’s Mirena thankfully isn’t a forgettable character and actually serves some purpose to the story, although I wish she did have some more to do. Unfortunately, the always reliable Dominic Cooper fails as the villain and just shows up from time to time to remind us there is someone that Vlad has to kill.

 

Unfortunately, Dracula Untold does have many missteps. One of them sadly falls into what should, and could have been, a highlight of the movie. It’s when Vlad takes on a big group of soldiers on his own with his newly equipped superhuman powers. Instead we get a massive amount of shaky cam, CGI, and quick moments that really don’t allow you to enjoy it the way you’re supposed to. I don’t mind shaky cam as much as others do but the amount of it in the scene really bothered me. The other issue, even though it’s a small one, is the rules of the vampirism in this world are not established. Vlad seems to be able to go out during the day time, even in an overcast, as long as he doesn’t step into direct sunlight. Silver also bothers them but doesn’t necessary kill them and one character even attempts to use a wooden stack that seems to show some effect. Maybe it’s nitpicky but rules do need to be established.

 

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The movie does have some cool visuals. The CGI bats, which are heavily advertise, are okay but the effect works better when Vlad uses them to disappear and reappear. Some shots look like cool screensavers and costumes are pretty damn impressive. Overall the movie does have a gothic feel and look to it, which is pretty welcomed considering Vlad is being presented as a somewhat dark superhero.

 

All in all, Dracula Untold isn’t a perfect movie but does have very few redeeming qualities to it. It also serves as the first movie in the Universal Monsters shared universe they are setting up. While it doesn’t totally feel like it was a complete setup, it is there. Out of the whole movie Evans and Dance’s cave scene is the best thing about the movie.

 

Dracula Untold

3.5 out of 5

‘Need for Speed’ Review

Dir: Scott Waugh

Cast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbertson, Dakota Johnson, and Michael Keaton

Synopsis: Fresh from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind. His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Need for Speed, based on the popular EA racing games, follows Tobey Marshall (Paul) is a former racing star who’s now struggling to make the payments on the auto shop he inherited from his dad.  When his rival Dino Brewster (Cooper) offers Tobey and his crew 25% of the profits on a restored Mustang and they, of course, take the job.  After the car sells in a way Dino doesn’t like, he wagers with Tobey and Tobey’s friend Pete (Gilbertson) an all-or-nothing race.  Tobey takes the wager and is about to win when a desperate Dino nudges Pete off the road, and kills him.  Tobey gets blamed for the crash and is sent to jail for two years. Once he gets out, he chooses to get revenge on Dino by beating him in the prestigious De Leon race held by Monarch (Keaton), an ex-racer-turned-Internet phenomenon.  The Mustang buyer’s assistant, Julia (Poots), provides the restored car and the two head across country while dodging cops and a bounty put by Dino.

While some will probably say the movie is trying to copy or be like The Fast and The Furious franchise, Need for Speed is kind of its own thing.  The movie does have its comedic moments, one scene in particular with one of Toby’s crew members Finn (Malek), but aside from that the movie is very much grounded. The movie has prided itself on using actual stunts instead with few CGI as possible, does make the car chases a bit more thrilling to watch and gives the movie a bit more creditability at the end. Of course, reviewers look at this as a mistake and some even say that the seriousness of the movie ruins the whole movie entirely. While there are some scenes that do prove that it doesn’t change the experience, well at least for me.

On the acting side, Aaron Paul, of Breaking Bad fame, does what he can with his role as a man looking for revenge but other than that he doesn’t really do anything else.  He does have good chemistry with Poots’ character Julia, who is more than just a pretty face. Toby’s crew include; a pilot, Benny, who keeps an eye of them, and mechanics Joe and Finn. All three of them are the comic relief of the movie and while some of the jokes do feel forced there are some real genuine moments that make you feel like they have been friends for a while.

Dominic Cooper’s villain Dino is nothing more than a cocky former pro-racer who wants things done his way and will do anything he can to get it.  Michael Keaton chews up a bit of the scenes he’s in as Monarch, but I think people will be happy to see him on the big screen again.

But let’s face it, the reason people will watch this movie is for the car sequences.  Like I said before, Need for Speed prided itself on using actual stunts with a touch of CGI, which does make the car chases a bit more thrilling to watch and enjoy. Thankfully, Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) went that direction otherwise the movie could have gone in another direction for the worse. Waugh even brings some descent POV shots and puts you in the car sometimes. Like the game, the races all build up to the last race which is Monarch’s pride-and-joy, the De Leon, where the winner gets millions of dollars and the fancy cars.

All in all, Need for Speed isn’t a great movie but it isn’t as bad as the reviewers want to make you think.  Paul, Poots and Keaton are the better parts of the movie but in reality the car chase sequences are the best part of Need for Speed.

 

Need for Speed

3.5 out of 5