Sunday, July 18, 2010


     How could CHERNOBOG'S LAIR ignore a film based on a segment from Disney's Fantasia? Without Fantasia , there would be no "Night on Bald Mountain" and no Chernabog! From the director and producers of National Treasure (also starring Nicholas Cage) comes a movie based on The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a 10-minute sequence from Walt Disney's "Fantasia" (1940), for those who DON'T KNOW, an animated concert film that revolutionized feature animation. Although the original story of the Sorcerer's Apprentice is significantly changed for the movie's plot, "Sorcerer's Apprentice" is a fun and exciting film with a surprisingly heavy scientific and magical theme including impressive magical special effects and a decent story for a PG rated family movie. "Sorcerer's Apprentice" stars Nicholas Cage as Balthazar Blake, one of three apprentices to the legendary wizard Merlin. When another of Merlin's apprentices, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) betrays him and allies with the evil Morgana (Alice Krige). Balthazar manages to trap both Horvath and Morgana in a magical nesting doll; but not before Veronica (Monica Bellucci), another apprentice and Balthazar's lover is also trapped. For the next 1000 years the immortal Balthazar searches for a way to free Veronica and to try to find the Prime Merlinian, Merlin's magical successor. After centuries of searching he finally finds him in the most unlikely of persons, Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a very-geeky physics major who's been experimenting with Tesla coils. Balthazar takes it upon himself to train Dave to be a sorcerer. While Dave becomes distracted by his childhood sweetheart Becky (Teresa Palmer), Horvath (now free from an antique Chinese urn) seeks to free Morgana and other evil sorcerers from the nesting doll and destroy the world!
    Although this Sorcerer's Apprentice doesn't feature Mickey Mouse in a pointy hat, it does pay homage to the classic scene of the enchanted brooms. Dave tries to clean up his secluded laboratory and misuses his newly found magical powers, enchanting a whole closet of brooms and mops which backfires. As with other Disney inspired movies such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series, "Apprentice" has almost nothing to do with the original source material, be it ride or movie. However, there is a  homage to the original Sorcerer's Apprentice in a special scene after the end credits. (I won't spoil it!) Although the movie was fun and entertaining, the story does become  convoluted with too many extra characters and a bizarre plot. Nicholas Cage pulls off the character of Balthazar with humorous eccentricity although still retaining his very dull personality. The young star of the movie, Jay Baruchel, has proven himself as an up and coming star with his characters in such comedies as Fanboys (2008) and Tropic Thunder (2008), and fresh from his first starring role with this years She's Out Of My League. While he successfully pulls off the innocent and extremely awkward "nerdiness" well, his overly bumbling and goofy character in Sorcerer's Apprentice is almost too overdone bordering on annoying and even excessive. An hour and a half of his whiny/nasally voice becomes almost unbearable! Despite Jay's nerdy foibles "Sorcerer's Apprentice" is a fun movie but sadly fails to compare with the success of Pirates or National Treasure chocking up another Disney financial flop this year like Prince of Persia. Although I have to admit that I enjoyed both Prince of Persia and Sorcerer's Apprentice, I feel that both of the films suffer both critically and financially with having to "measure up" to Disney $100 million blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean or Alice in Wonderland(coincidently both starring Johnny Depp). Although I'm sure movie going audiences (and myself) can't get enough of Johnny Depp, I wonder how the movie would have done with Depp as Balthazar and who knows, maybe one of the "Twilight" teens as Dave? (yeah right!)

Saturday, July 10, 2010


    Since our last disappointing venture into the Predator universe with 2007 's "Aliens VS. Predator: Requiem", Robert Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios took it upon themselves to remake or re-imagine the Predator franchise with the release of "Predators"! For most fans of the Aliens/Predator franchises like myself, I was looking forward to this fresh new approach and being written and produced by Robert Rodriguez ("Grindhouse") and directed by Nimród Antal ("Vacancy" (2007) it seemed like a match made in heaven (or space)! Unfortunately, as "Predators" seems more like a remake, it was meant to be a sequel to "Predator" (1987) and "Predator 2" (1990) but instead of following the Aliens VS. Predator series. As "Predators" starts off with good intentions and a seemingly original new story, the movie begins very quickly as our main character Royce (Adrian Brody) appears unconscious and plummeting towards a thick jungle, then suddenly parachuting just in time. With no memory of why or how he got there, he meets other just as clueless, (and very random) victims who follow into a seemingly sick practical joke. With at least 8 others including various soldiers or criminal characters played by a variety of actors like Danny Trejo ("Machete"), Alice Braga ("I Am Legend"), and even Topher Grace ("Spider-Man 3")?! They soon figure out they are on another planet which is basically an alien game preserve for the Predators, who seem more savage and bloodthirsty than ever. As the group quickly dwindles one-by-one they run into Noland (a very chubby Laurence Fishburne) a crazy, lone, survivalist who manages only to complicate the groups situation. As time is running out, whoever is left must try to find a way to either defeat the Predators or make it off the planet; easier said than done!
    The biggest problem is that the story is very unoriginal by merely turning the original story from the first "Predator" movie around. In the first movies the Predators come down to Earth to hunt their prey, but now, in "Predators", the prey are brought to the Predators! The motley crew of characters in the group are SO random and as half of them are picked off very quickly we don't know anything about them or do we even care?! Royce (Brody) and Isabelle (Braga) seem to be the focus as they develop some semblance of a relationship, but with the others, you have everything from a Mexican mob enforcer, to a Yakuza hit man, an African guerrilla fighter, a Russian heavy machine gunner, and even a death row convict and a doctor! It's a wonder Rodriguez even bothered to try and remake "Predator" because despite the difference in the group of "victims" the story is almost the exact same as the group tries to survive against the Predators who hunt them one-by-one, which remain just as mysterious as in the first one with little or no new revelations to the Predator culture as with "Aliens VS. Predator". The character Isabelle (Braga) even makes a reference to the events of the first "Predator" movie as she compares it to their own situation (déjà vu!). The most disappointing of all is Laurence Fishburne's character, who is so over the top insane he reminds me of the crazy guy (Ben Gunn) in "Treasure Island" (READ A BOOK!) that he becomes so uninteresting and (SPOILER!) dies so quickly in the movie we don't even have time to figure him out! All in all, the worst thing about this movie is the fact that the music/soundtrack in the movie is almost the exact same as the original 1987 movie! They didn't even bother giving it it's own score, the themes are the same! You almost expect Arnold Schwarzenegger to pop out from behind a tree! The only interesting part of "Predators" is when the movie alludes to a kind of race war between two kinds of Predators. There are the traditional/classic Predators which we know of but really only see one of in this movie and then there are the more savage Predators who are the main antagonists. Despite the attempt at introducing a new kind of Predator, it remains just as futile as the appearance of the half-Alien half-Predator in AVP2! Overall I was significantly bored and disappointed with "Predators". I can't see Adrian Brody as an action hero and I definitely can't stand Topher Grace! I think the funniest part in the whole movie is the cameo from Danny Trejo, a popular character actor who's made cameos in various movies along with several of Robert Rodriguez's own films such as "Desperado" (1995) and "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996) but who will also be appearing in the movie "Machete" in September as he reprises the same character he appeared in a farce-trailer for Rodriguez's "Grindhouse: Planet Terror" (2007), coincidentally enough, the actual trailer for the real "Machete" movie appears before "Predators" in theaters!