Tag Archives: Avatar

Face Off: Hercules (1997) and Superman I/II (1978/80)

Motion State Face Offs pit two films, franchises, or television series against each another for no reason other than because we can.

As the leading voice in movie reviews, we at Motion State Review judge films based on a wide variety of factors — dialogue, acting, cinematography, whether or not Nic Cage is in it, etc. But perhaps the most important quality a movie can have, in this contributor’s humble opinion, is originality. Sometimes, we do not recognize a movie’s level of originality unless it is noticeably unoriginal (Avatar rehashing Pocahontas, to name one; seriously they are the same movie). Other times, you can see a movie a dozen times before realizing that maybe you have seen the same exact thing somewhere else. Such was the case as when I traveled to Athens and watched the Disney movie Hercules for the first time in several years, because a true movie critic travels thousands of miles just to watch an animated movie that takes place there. I expected to get a heavy dose of nostalgia while watching; instead I got a heavy dose of…Superman?

In the same way that Avatar and Pocahontas are similar enough that any high school teacher would claim plagiarism, so, too, I found, were Hercules and the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Heck, they’re about one Superman solo song away from being the same movie (which would be awesome in the next Man of Steel flick, as long as Henry Cavill’s singing voice is as fantastic as his acting). But, let’s make one thing clear about who’s stealing from whom: the myth of Hercules came just slightly (a few thousand years) before the character of Superman was invented.

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Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)

When there’s a vampire around, odds are a werewolf isn’t far away. In the last couple decades movies concerned with the bloodsucking creatures of the night — Twilight, Van Helsing, even What We Do in the Shadows — seem inevitably concerned also with slightly hairier, howlier creatures. They’re never equally concerned with werewolves, though, casting them consistently in cameos for pure shock value, and so the conceit of the third Underworld film Rise of the Lycans is a smart one: give the werewolves their due.

The result is by no means a good movie, unless you’re somehow enraptured by the Underworld series. If you’re not, then you might refer to Rise of the Lycans as The One Without Kate Beckinsale, which is a large part of the film’s undoing in the same way the new Independence Day could essentially be subtitled The One Without Will Smith. The bitch of it all is that Michael Sheen, starring as head were-dude Lucian, is a far better actor than Beckinsale will likely ever be. He’s a Shakespearian tragedian, she’s an action hero. Underworld, of course, actually needs the latter, and sadly Michael Sheen just isn’t an action hero. His head’s too big. He’s got the biceps, sure, but everyone has the biceps these days. Have you guys seen Jonathan Lipnicki lately? Sheen is somehow more naturally proportional in his werewolf form than as a regular human. Maybe they should have CGI’d his forehead down.

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Kidnapping Mr. Heineken (2015)

It’s actually borderline impressive how dull Kidnapping Mr. Heineken ends up being. The true story of the capture, ransom and eventual release of beer mogul Freddy Heineken is a harrowing one. Heineken was one of the richest men in the Netherlands when he was kidnapped. He was held for weeks in a brilliantly-constructed soundproof cell that probably inspired that twist from Denzel’s Inside Man. His ransom was the largest ever paid for an individual, and his captors evaded police for weeks following their release of Heineken. The media had an absolute field day with the entire affair, but the personal motives on the part of the captors are interesting as well.

As a film, though, pretty much all of that falls flat. Jim Sturgess plays the ringleader and de facto mastermind Cor Van Hout, flanked by Sam Worthington’s Willem and Ryan Kwanten’s Cat, and each actor does fine with the part allotted to them. Anthony Hopkins is the veteran and obvious draw in the part of Freddy Heineken. Finally, director Daniel Alfredson is an intriguing choice as well, having previously helmed the original Millennium Trilogy before David Fincher took over for the American version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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Niko and the Sword of Light 1.1

Much has been written about Amazon’s Pilot Season, particularly its live-action slate–and with good reason, judging from potentially great new shows like The Man in the High Castle. As for the animated fare, critics have been criminally silent–possibly with good reason, judging from titles like The Stinky & Dirty Show. But their first mistake is lumping those shows together with Niko and the Sword of Light. (Their second mistake is probably assuming that animation has nothing new to offer.)

Niko started out as a carefully crafted motion comic. Actually, it started as a labor of love by a group of storyboard artists, concept designers, and animators from several high profile studios. But thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Niko’s journey can now be purchased and experienced on iPads everywhere. These adventures follow the last human boy as he seeks to rid his savage land of the darkness that’s consumed it. With the help of a sword (of light, naturally) and a strange host of creatures he meets along the way, Niko braves countless enemies and discovers more mysteries about his past. Continue reading Niko and the Sword of Light 1.1