DVD Review: In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds

Hey guys…

I’ll make it simple. Unless you’re a huge Dolph Lundgren fan, I recommend you skip In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds, director Uwe Boll‘s latest direct-to-DVD release entirely.

When I saw the original a couple of years ago starring Jason Statham, I thought it would have been better if it was about an hour shorter, but enjoyed it despite the bad reviews. It wasn’t Shakespeare, but it was fun. So I thought that maybe the second one would be alright as well. It couldn’t be worse than the first one, could it? Boy was I wrong.

Even though I’ve stuck with Dolph through plenty of movies like Showdown in Little Tokyo with Brandon Lee and a version of Marvel Comics’ Punisher with Louis Gosset, Jr., In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds managed to be almost comical in some places and painful in others. Even though it’s much shorter than the first film, I wanted to turn it off after about twenty minutes.

Let’s start at the beginning, which briefly gave me hope for the rest of the movie… Running through the woods is Eliana (Natalia Guslistaya, Bloodrayne: The Third Reich), a warrior woman being pursued by a group of men until she bursts into the open and we see that she’s running towards a big city in our own world. Meanwhile Granger (Lundgren), a retired military man, is demonstrating martial arts to a group of young students with the help of some old military buddies. Immediately you’re thrown into his world as a retired soldier, dealing with the memories of his time in the service and the aches and pains of a body abused in action.

As he mourns the loss of those who didn’t make it back from military action and gets a bath ready, he’s attacked by the same people who were chasing Elianna through the woods. Just as one of the assailants is about to get in a lucky shot, she appears on the scene to save him and push him through a magical portal to her world…

From that point on, it enters bad B-movie territory with horrible dialog written by someone seeking to poorly emulate Shakespeare. And even though there are some well choreographed fight scenes at times, they’re not enough to save the film from falling into a long series of predictable scenes and poor CGI. Though I like Lundgren and the hard-working Lochlyn Munro who played the evil King, the dialog and the stereotypical roles seemed more fit for an episode of Scooby-Doo! than a full-length movie.

Beyond the film itself on the DVD, there are a couple of commentary tracks and two features. In “Behind the Scenes of In the Name of the King: Two Worlds” it looks like Dolph had a good time making the film with Boll and the rest of the cast. And “From Page to Screen” features writer Michael Nachoff talking about the process of coming up with the idea and how it changed once filming began. I have to wonder if the script was better than the film and the “on scene” changes were what sank it or if the dialog was really that bad in the original script.

I’m not a fan of writing negative reviews, but I’d strongly encourage you to stay away from In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds on DVD and Blu-ray and wait until it comes to television. At least then you can turn it off after the first ten minutes and not feel bad about it.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Hi there!

What is it about Jim Carrey and animals that just clicks when they’re combined in a movie? I still remember Carrey as “Fireman Jim” on In Living Color and wondering how in the heck he made his face stay in that awful grimace. When he did both Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask in 1994, he was permanently on my radar. The character of Ace Ventura was at once annoying and endearing, and somehow he pulled off working with an entire zoo of animals on film.

When Mr. Popper’s Penguins came out this past June, everyone in my family wanted to see it. However, as things sometimes work out, we never got a chance so we knew we’d definitely have to check it out on DVD. Thankfully it was released this week and we had a chance to watch.

The movie is based on Mr. Popper’s Penguins, a Newbery-award-winning novel published in 1938 by the husband and wife team of Richard and Florence Atwater. Jim Carrey plays Tom Popper, a man dedicated to his work in buying and selling New York City real estate to the detriment of all other relationships in his life. While Popper was growing up, his father was off exploring the world and rarely home to share his experiences. To make up for it, his father always sent fun gifts to his son from wherever he was. When the elder Popper dies, he sends his son one last gift – a set of penguins from Antarctica. From the moment Popper meets the first penguin, his life starts spiraling out of control and putting his priorities back in order.

Anyone who’s had a pet can probably attest to how crazy life can get when you have an animal in your life. There’s something about sharing your life with a pet that gets them under your skin. Sure, there’s the day-to-day chores of feeding and cleaning up after critters big and small. But little by little they become bonded to you and you become bonded to them despite how much they may completely drive you bonkers.

As Popper gets used to having six penguins in his NYC apartment, he finds himself caring for these frozen characters from the South Pole. And along the way, he finds ways to reconnect with his kids Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) and Janie (Madeline Carroll), and his ex-wife Amanda (Carla Gugino). Of course, there are a few hiccups along the way like a zookeeper (Clark Gregg) obsessed with taking the penguins away, the woman who owns the Tavern on the Green in Central Park, Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury), and Popper’s bosses at the real estate firm.

Honestly I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Mr. Popper’s Penguins based on the trailers. It’s Jim Carrey playing a similar character to other roles like he has in Bruce Almighty and Liar Liar. That however turned out to be a boon – there’s something about this human cartoon interacting with animals and kids that makes him quite endearing.

Beyond Carrey, the penguins themselves have quite a bit of character. Each penguin has its own personality from the first time they appear in the film to the end. And the combination of live action and CGI penguins was seamless throughout the movie. The scene with the birds sliding down from floor to floor in the Guggenheim was quite funny as you saw people go flying left and right as the birds whizzed past.

Included in the DVD extras are the animated short “Nimrod and Stinky’s Antarctic Adventure,” a collection of deleted scenes, a gag reel, “Ready for Their Closeup,” “Ladies and Gentoomen,” an audio commentary featuring director Mark Waters, editor Bruce Green, and visual effects supervisor Richard Hollander, a sneak peek at Tooth Fairy 2, and the original theatrical trailer.

The animated short was disappointing, done in a “moving comics” style that was a bit jarring to me. However I was impressed that Clegg would lend his voice to the zookeeper in the short. The gag reel proves just how little Jim Carrey has changed since Ace Ventura. And “Ladies and Gentoomen” is a great educational piece about the penguins featuring Jessica Perry, a Senior Level Aviculturist at Sea World.

We really enjoyed “Ready for their Closeup,” which showed the great lengths the actors and production crew went to for the Gentoo penguins. Everyone involved in the movie really seemed quite taken with them. The work that went into training the birds as well as training the actors to work with them. And like any time you work with animals, the feature really shows how they can take over the set. If there weren’t enough outtakes in the gag reel for you, there are some amazing clips with Carrey and the penguins here.

Overall Mr. Popper’s Penguins was a fun movie with some great extras to learn more about the penguins themselves as well as making movies with these fun birds.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas

Ever since Scrat the sabertooth squirrel started his quest for the acorn in the early 2000s, I’ve been a fan of the Ice Age universe. Sure, maybe Manny, Sid, and Diego are slowly inching towards extinction, but more often than not they show that animated films can be both commercial, kid-friendly, and still appeal to parents who are still young-at-heart.

That said, I was disappointed this year when we somehow managed to miss recording Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas which aired around Thanksgiving. I wanted to see if the momentum of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs with its whole Land of the Lost/Journey to the Center of the Earth vibe would spill over into a Christmas special. Now that I’ve seen the special on DVD, I’m happy to say that it was actually quite original and fun!

It starts out with mammoths Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) literally rolling out the decorations for Christmas (somewhat ironically considering how odd it would be to have Christmas before the birth of Christ, but let’s let that go) – including a large boulder that’s been handed down generation to generation in Manny’s family. When Sid (John Leguizamo) the sloth and Diego (Denis Leary) the sabertooth tiger get involved in a discussion about the stone’s merits, Sid manages to destroy it while testing its durability. This didn’t make Manny happy at all and in his frustration he convinces Sid that he’s on Santa’s “Naughty List.”

Well, this upsets Manny and Ellie’s daughter Peaches (Ciara Bravo) so much, she sets off to head to the North Pole to convince Santa to remove Sid from the Naughty List. Of course, Peaches and Sid aren’t alone in this quest and are joined by the possum brothers Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). Along the way, they get a bit lost and stumble across a new friend named Prancer (T.J. Miller) who just happens to be a flying reindeer. This odd group makes their way to Santa’s workshop, guarded by an army of tiny sloths.

Do they find Santa? Do Manny, Ellie, and Diego join the party? Yes to both questions. Of course, they manage to destroy and rebuild Santa’s Workshop and find a way to save Christmas for kids all around the world thanks to Prancer and his flying family. Ultimately I think the message is that no matter what happens, anything is possible if you work together towards a common goal and don’t give up.

Plus, having an Ice Age holiday special serves as a reminder of the new movie due out next summer – Ice Age: Continental Drift arrives in theaters in July 2012!

In an age where the stop-motion puppetry of the Rankin-Bass holiday specials are looking a little long in the tooth, I’m glad to see new specials appearing on the docket like the Prep and Landing, Shrek the Halls, and now Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas. I think this one will fit nicely into our holiday TV traditions from now on!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

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