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Tag Archive: John Rhys-Davies


Review by C.J. Bunce

These days most movies translate just fine from the big screen to a home high definition television.  Late December’s release from Warner Brothers, DC’s Aquaman, is a surprisingly good transfer, showcasing the film’s epic fantasy seascapes and truly unique otherworld sea creatures without the sound contrast and lighting issues that plague recent action film releases.  Aquaman is available now on 4D, Blu-ray, DVD, and in digital formats, and it’s available both on Vudu and Amazon Prime.  A single word to describe this rare, solid entry in the DC franchise?  Epic.  Throughout the film viewers will see concepts from the history of fantasy films absorbed into its plot, from the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark to Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth, to Ray Harryhausen fantasy classics, King Solomon’s Mines and Tomb Raider, and even Harry Potter and Tolkien’s Middle-earth stories.

It all begins with the cast, and in particular the chemistry between the always cool and confident actor who looks born to play superheroes, Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, and Amber Heard as a beautiful grown-up Ariel turned badass named Mera, who may be the best realized heroine from the comics in the DC universe.  Aquaman director James Wan (Furious 7) does something rare for the superhero genre and forms his film around a romance between the two as they embark on a quest across the planet for the legendary trident of King Atlan, first king of the earliest water-breathers living under the sea.  Wan makes that happen more successfully than other DC romances of the past, including even Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  What is not lost on the small screen is the CGI-heavy undersea universe, but this time a film is CGI-heavy in a good, exciting way (Aquaman knocks the much lauded CGI film Avatar out of the water in every way).  Atlanteans riding sea horses, sharks, whales, and turtles.  Aquaman and Mera hiding out inside a whale, Pinocchio-style.  The film hits its visual zenith with a giant Kraken-like beast with an appearance as awesome as seeing Godzilla for the first time.  The visuals have all the imagination and colorful execution that makes for a rewatchable film, and the score has a pounding synth feel, with a mixed vibe of Daft Punk from Tron: Legacy and Queen from Flash Gordon.

The home release is accompanied by 15 behind-the-scenes features.  The best has Dolph Lundgren explaining the connections between key characters and concepts in the comic books with the portrayal in the film, in Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman.  You get a feel for how energetic and how fun Jason Momoa is in real life in Becoming Aquaman and A Match Made in Atlantis.  Details of how the director expanded on the comics and where he mixed Kaiju and historical sea stories can be found in James Wan: World Builder.  Heroines of Atlantis will leave viewers convinced future films in the series need more women characters, with only two to speak of in this film.  Other features include Aqua Tech, Atlantis Warfare, Black Manta, Villainous Training, Kingdoms of the Seven Seas, Creating Undersea Creatures, three Scene Study Breakdowns (the Sicily battle, the early submarine attack, and the underwater trench climax), and a sneak preview of Shazam.

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Shannara series

MTV clearly has ambitions to become the next CW Network, and its choice for the latest young adult focused series is sure to bring in viewers of shows like The Vampire Diaries, Stitchers, Smallville, and The Flash.  It’s The Shannara Chronicles, a classic fantasy world series based on the Terry Brooks series of novels and specifically The Elfstones of Shannara.  The two-hour premiere aired Tuesday night and revealed an incredibly rich set of film locations and environments to create a world ruled by Elves in a future Earth in the area of what was once the Pacific Northwest (the show opening reveals an ancient ruin that was once the Seattle Space Needle).  Humans, dwarves, gnomes, and trolls–all the fantasy races you’d expect in a good fantasy series can be found here.

A single tree guarded by the Elves is said to keep the Demons from re-entering the world.  Some say this is just a myth.  But the tree has now become sick, and a young Elf woman, her grandfather the Elfking, a Druid, and his apprentice must convince everyone the story is not just a myth as they attempt to save the tree, or allow the unspeakable evil to be unleashed.  It’s Terry Brooks, not George R.R. Martin, so expect quick-paced action (the story races forward so you’ve no time to get bored), less melodrama and long dialogue, and a more youthful cast.

John Rhys-Davies Shannara

With a production led in part by popular executive producer Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf), the cast is also quite impressive.  Bringing gravitas and legitimacy to the series is John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings, Raiders of the Lost Ark) as the Elfking, Manu Bennett (The Hobbit, Arrow) as a Druid human, and James Remar (The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, The Legend of Korra, Django Unchained) as head of the Rovers

The young members of the cast show some promise, too, beginning with Pan’s Labyrinth star Ivana Baquero as the second female lead Eretria, Austin Butler (Arrow) as Wil, the naïve padawan of the Druid who possesses three rare Elfstones, and Poppy Drayton (Downton Abbey, Father Brown) as the show’s burgeoning warrior, a “Chosen” heroine named Amberle.

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Gimli axe

This past December we discussed here at borg.com a fantasy film auction to end all auctions –Julien’s The Trilogy Collection Auction, which included the sale of an item that sold for the highest price–a screen-used axe wielded by John Rhys-Davies as the dwarf Gimli.  The final price?  $180,000.

Today, Julien’s has one Lord of the Rings prop in its Hollywood Legends auction.  It’s another Gimli axe, but this one has the fortune of the provenance of being part of John Rhys-Davies’ personal collection–one of those props that each of the Fellowship of the Rings actors was given after filming.  Considering the December sale of a Gimli axe without such a great provenance record, Julien’s has listed a conservative estimate range, $125,000 to $150,000.

Gimli axe number 2

The first bid is already in, at $95,000 plus auction fees.

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Psych 100th episode

We’re beginning Hour 31 of the “99 Psychs on the Wall” Marathon on the cable channel Cloo here at midnight Monday morning.  Have you seen all 99 Psych episodes?  We have.  Many times each for some, like the Halloween episode “Tuesday the 17th,” or when Henry goes undercover in “The Old and the Restless,” and Juliet dons roller skates in “Talk Derby to Me.”  And we have found a pineapple (or something that looks pretty darned close) hidden or not-so-hidden in almost every episode.  The funniest ever detective-crime-drama-comedy beat the odds to get renewed for yet another season with next year’s Season 8, and hits the rare benchmark of 100 hours on television.  We’re eager to watch the 100th episode premiere Wednesday, March 27, 2013, on the USA Network.

If you haven’t watched Psych before, tune in any time to the Cloo cable channel before Wednesday night and pick any episode.  Psych stars James Roday as Shawn Spencer, a guy who was raised by cop father Henry (Corbin Bernsen) to pay incredibly close attention to details, and he uses this to fake psychic abilities with a detective agency of sorts called “Psych” with lifelong best friend Gus (Dulé Hill), who at any time may be randomly renamed on a case by Shawn as anything from Ghee Buttersnaps to Lavender Gooms to Lemongrass Gogulope.  Shawn and Gus create a perfect buddy team-up and once you get on their wavelength you’re in for a lot of fun keeping up with pop culture references dropped sometimes wrong and sometimes right.

Psych banner

Early episodes began with a flashback of Shawn and dad Henry, leading to some kind of parallel experience later in the episode.  Young Shawn and Gus were as funny as old Shawn and Gus.  Corbin Bernsen’s Henry is a great codger who knows about his son’s fake business and disapproves but never lets on to anyone else.

Shawn and Gus are often hired on by a likable and trusting police chief, Karen Vick, played by Kirsten Nelson.  The change-up compared to other detective shows is Chief Vick knows Shawn’s tactics are a little off kilter but he gets results time and again so she ignores his eccentricities and keeps bringing him back to help with Santa Barbara Police Department cases.  The SBPD actually is filmed in Vancouver, BC, which can add its own humor as actors can be in a scene wearing shorts on a typical California afternoon yet you see their breath when they speak.  The SBPD includes two other key characters, Shawn’s late season love interest Detective Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson), and her partner, Detective Carlton (“Lassie”) Lassiter, played like Sergeant Joe Friday by Timothy Omundson.  Lassiter never approves of Shawn’s methods, yet Juliet believes in Shawn’s “powers” no matter how strange–a bit like Lois Lane not recognizing Superman is Clark Kent.

Shawn and Gus

Other great recurring characters are Officer McNabb (Sage Brocklebank), the hilarious coroner Woody (Kurt Fuller), Shawn’s sweet and equally quirky high school crush Abigail (Rachael Leigh Cook), Shawn’s mom Madeleine (Cybill Shepherd), the really, really strange Mary Lightly (Jimmi Simpson), the psychotic Mr. Yang (Ally Sheedy), Juliet’s love interest Declan Rand (Nestor Carbonell), and Lassiter’s criminal girlfriend Marlowe (Kristy Swanson).

Countless episodes should be included in the annals of classic television, and many bring in some of the best big actor guest stars as well as many blasts from the past.  If you miss the Cloo “99 Psychs on the Wall” marathon this week, nearly all the episodes but only the latest from this season can be found on streaming Netflix.

Here are twelve episodes that are not to be missed:

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Actor Benedict Cumberbatch confirmed this week that he has signed on to play the villain in the next Star Trek film, hopefully dispelling rumors once and for all that the prequel’s sequel won’t be about Khan, originally seen in Star Trek II.  Then again, he does look a bit like the crew stranded with Khan all those years on Ceti Alpha V…

  

Nah.  But it does make you want to get out the Photoshop and check out whether he makes a better Vulcan, Romulan or Klingon, or maybe J.J. Abrams will really mix things up and feature him as a member of The Borg.  And it puts the new Star Trek prequel’s sequel (say that ten times fast) in the #1 spot for most anticipated movie coming out in 2013.  (I think he’d make a great Romulan).

New Line Cinema only recently announced that Cumberbatch was going to be the evil voice of the Necromancer (and Smaug the dragon) in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and its sequel The Hobbit: There and Back Again, the former scheduled to be released in theaters in December.  Playing the villain in two of the biggest sci-fi/fantasy franchises is almost unprecedented.  Almost, because you have to consider fellow British actor Christopher Lee playing the villain Sauron in The Lord of the Rings and equally villainous Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels.  And then you have Karl Urban who played both Dr. McCoy in Star Trek 2009 and Eomer in The Lord of the Rings franchise, and Ian McKellen who played both Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and Magneto in the X-Men movies, and John Rhys-Davies who played Gimli in The Lord of the Rings and Sallah in the Indiana Jones movies… on second thought scratch that “unprecedented” reference.  But that certainly is good company for Cumberbatch, who has spring-boarded into international celebrity in the past year.

His role as Sherlock Holmes in Doctor Who creator Steven Moffat’s BBC/Public Television’s Masterpiece Mystery series Sherlock first put Cumberbatch opposite The Hobbit star Martin Freeman.  Freeman has a similarly huge year coming as Bilbo Baggins in addition to reprising his Dr. Watson role.  In Sherlock, the classic detective is brought into the 21st century, but his skills and sleuthing is very familiar.  Masterpiece Mystery confirmed this week that the Sherlock series 2/season 2 is scheduled to begin this May, and that they plan to bring back Cumberbatch for a third year after season 2.

Since his first roles in 2002, including a small part in the BBC mini-series Tipping the Velvet with Ashes to Ashes/Identity star Keeley Hawes, Cumberbatch had memorable smaller parts in 2006’s Amazing Grace as William Pitt…

in 2008’s The Other Boleyn Girl as William Carey, and in 2011 he played Major Stewart in Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed film War Horse

and as Peter Guillam in this season’s spy thriller (opening in general release this weekend finally) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Cumberbatch joins the Enterprise crew from Star Trek 2009, Chris Pine, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, and Zoe Saldana, and former Robocop Peter Weller as a yet-to-be-named character in the yet-to-be-named new Star Trek film.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com