REVIEW: CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011)

CAST

Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones)
Stephen Lang (Avatar)
Rachel Nichols (Alias)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Rose McGowan (Planet Terror)
Nonso Anozie (Cinderella)
Said Taghmaoui (American Hustle)

Conan is the son of Corin, chief of a barbarian tribe. The youth is a skilled but violent warrior, who his father believes is not ready to wield his own sword. One day, their village is attacked by the forces of Khalar Zym, a warlord who wishes to reunite the pieces of the Mask of Acheron in order to revive his dead wife and conquer Hyboria. Thousands of years ago, the Mask, crafted by a group of sorcerers and used to subjugate the world, was broken into many pieces, which were scattered among the barbarian tribes. After locating Corin’s piece of the mask, and murdering the entire village, Zym leaves. Conan is the only survivor, and swears revenge.

Years later, Conan has become a pirate, but still seeks revenge. He encounters a slave colony and frees it, killing all of the slave handlers in the process. In the city of Messantia, he encounters Ela-Shan, a thief being chased by a man whom Conan recognizes as Lucius, one of Zym’s soldiers from years before. He allows himself to be captured alongside Ela-Shan. Conan escapes imprisonment, kills several of the guards, and confronts Lucius, forcing him to reveal that Zym seeks a girl, the pure-blood descendant of the sorcerers of Acheron; sacrificing the descendant and using blood from the body of the girl will unleash the mask’s power. Conan helps the rest of the prisoners to escape, and, in gratitude, Ela-Shan tells Conan that, if he ever needs him, Conan will find him at the City of Thieves, Argalon. Lucius is then killed by the prisoners.

Zym and his daughter, the sorceress Marique attack a monastery where they hope to find the pure-blood descendant. Sensing something is wrong, Fassir, an elderly monk, tells one of his students, Tamara, to run away and return to her birthplace. When Fassir refuses to reveal his knowledge of the descendant, Zym kills him. Marique also slays several of the priestesses. Tamara’s carriage is chased by Zym’s men, but Conan rescues her, kills three of her pursuers, and also captures one of Zym’s men, Remo. After forcing him to reveal Tamara’s importance as the pure-blood, Conan catapults Remo into Zym’s nearby camp, killing him.

Zym and Marique confront Conan, who pretends to be interested in exchanging Tamara for gold. Conan attacks Zym, but Marique assists her father by invoking soldiers made of sand, and then poisons Conan with a poison-laced boomerang sword. Tamara rescues him and they return to Conan’s ship, stationed nearby, where his friend Artus helps Conan recover. The boat is attacked by Zym’s men, but although they kill several of Conan’s men, they are defeated. Conan orders Artus to return to Messantia with Tamara and departs to confront Zym in his kingdom. Artus tells Tamara that Conan left a map behind and she follows him, meeting with him in a cave, where they strip naked and copulate. The next day, as she is returning to the boat, Zym’s men and daughter capture her.

Conan learns of Tamara’s capture and departs to Argalon, where he asks Ela-Shan to help him break into Zym’s castle unnoticed. Zym prepares to drain Tamara’s blood, mending the mask. He then plans to use the girl’s body as a vessel for his wife. After confronting an octopus-like monster, the Dweller, that guards the dungeons and killing its four handlers, along with Ukafa, Conan infiltrates Zym’s followers, kills a guard and steals his robe, and watches as Zym puts on the empowered mask. Conan releases Tamara, and she escapes as he battles Zym with the castle falling around them. Marique attacks Tamara, but Conan hears Tamara’s scream and defeats Marique, cutting off her hand. Tamara kicks her into a pit, where her body pierced by a large spike. Zym comes and, finding his daughter’s body impaled by the spike, he swears revenge upon Conan.

Conan and Tamara become trapped on an unstable bridge as Zym attacks them. He uses the mask’s power to call forth the spirit of his deceased wife, Maliva, a powerful sorceress who was executed by the monks from Tamara’s monastery for attempting to unleash occult forces to destroy Hyborea, and Maliva’s spirit begins to possess Tamara’s body. She begs Conan to let her fall, but he refuses, and instead stabs the bridge before jumping to safety with Tamara. The bridge collapses, taking Zym along. The power-hungry ruler falls to the lava below the immense precipice screaming the name of his wife, implying his demise.

Conan and Tamara escape and he returns her to her birthplace, telling her that they’ll meet again. He then returns to Corin’s village and tells the memory of his father that he has avenged his death and recovered the sword Marique stole from him, restoring his honor.MV5BOTM2NDExNDY3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDE2MDcxNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1377,1000_AL_This remake has plenty of action, thankfully so as it takes some of the attention away from the few dubious acting talents & casting decisions on show. As the lead, Jason Momoa is not built quite like Arnie & doesn’t have a whole load of facial expressions, but he is a slightly better actor. Seasoned thespian, Stephen Lang, makes this a bit more worthwhile during the almost 2 hour run time, playing the baddie role very well. Also, Morgan Freeman’s (The Shawshank Redemption) deep rich voice adds some strength to the narration of the opening dialogues.

 

 

 

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REVIEW: CONAN THE ADVENTURER (1997)

MAIN CAST

Ralf Moeller (The Scorpion King)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Robert McRay (Legend of The Phantom)
Jeremy Kemp (A Bridge To Far)
T.J. Storm (VR Troopers)
Andrew Craig (The Toxic Avenger)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Ally Dunne (V.I.P.)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Arthur Burghardt (Transformers)
Mickey Rooney (Nationel Velvet)
Vernon Wells (Mad Max 2)
Brad Greenquist (Alias)
Andrew Bryniarski (Batman Returns)
Paul Le Mat (PUppet Master)
Matthias Hues (Star Trek VI)
Ali Landry (Eve)
Brooke Burns (Baywatch)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)
Eric Steinberg (Stargate SG.1)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Angelica Bridges (Mystery Men)
Scott MacDonald (Jack Frost)
Claudette Mink (Children of The Corn 7)
Justina Vail (Seven Days)

Image result for conan 1997Syndicated television is often called the last bastion of poor writers in this modern age, much like the pulp fiction writers of years gone by were back in their day. This is not to say that syndicated television is always bad, just that the odds greatly favor such a global statement. The first example that comes to mind would be Black Scorpion but I’m sure you’re familiar with other shows like Sinbad, Robin Hood, and Lost World (an admittedly guilty pleasure). The 1990’s were the best years for fantasy shows in syndication due in large part to the success of Hercules and Xena; both of which proved profitable beyond the imagination of their creators. Is it any wonder that other producers sought to cash in as well? Such was the case with a single season show by the name of Conan The Adventurer, based on the writings of famed 1930’s pulp fiction writer, Robert E. Howard, a young man from the desolate plains of Texas.

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Mr. Howard created the mythic hero Conan as a character that could help free him from the shackles of poverty.His character of Conan evolved from another, King Kull, set in the same age of Atlantis era of 10,000 years ago, in epoch known as the Hyborian Age. Conan was a thief, a liar, and a barbarian in every sense of the word. His code of conduct was generally considered less than chivalrous with a “me first” attitude befitting the wild imagination of his writer, a man caught in the trappings of his time. Howard’s own description of the character was: “Some mechanism in my subconsciousness took the dominant characteristics of various prizefighters, gunmen, bootleggers, oil field bullies, gamblers, and honest workmen I had come in contact with, and combining them all, produced the amalgamation I call Conan the Cimmerian.” The world-view of such a man can only be placed in the proper context by understanding the effects of where he lived and the conditions the entire country were in, making more understandable the type of anti-hero that later was popularized in the Marvel comic books and art of Frank Frazetta. I think the rise of the anti-hero in the 1960’s attributed much to reviving such characters as Conan, a being thought up in 1931 by Howard, who only wrote 22 short stories in his later years (before he killed himself). With this in mind, let me turn to the television series this review is about:

Keeping in mind that the original character was a thief, cutthroat, mercenary that did anything asked of him for a price and ignored all social conventions that didn’t suit him (similar to the original Hercules being a power mad rapist drunkard), the show started off on the wrong foot with me by suggesting his “destiny was to free the oppressed” in the opening monologue since there’s nothing further from the truth in the original stories or in the previous movies starring famed bodybuilder-turned-Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Given that a kinder and gentler version of the character would probably be the only way to get the series made, I started off watching the episodes a bit disgruntled but content that a watered down Conan might be better than no Conan at all, I figured how bad could it be considering all the other shows I enjoyed (even as guilty pleasures).
The show focused on Conan’s quest to find, and kill, a wizard, Hissah Zul (that was responsible for the death of his sweetheart and the guy responsible for all the ills in the world. Each week would find Conan and a mish mash of odd companions  fighting the minions of evil and cheap CGI effects as they continued on a path to dethrone the wizard. I watched the generic exploits of the cast as they went through the motions and about midway through the series; I actually started enjoying it way too much.
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So, after watching the episodes as presented in the set (which were out of order from the air dates) and then as they were originally shown, I found the plot to make at least a little more sense in the DVD order they were aired in syndication. Keeping in mind that most, if not all, of the episodes borrowed heavily from the Marvel Comics versions as opposed to the pulp works of Howard. The show tried to be in line with a modern sensibility imposed on the age old character, an uneasy fit at times. While the humor was often as dry as Dilbert in its own way, I think this was what was lacking compared to the movies. Regardless, it was nice to see a show long lost into the archives of some vault given new life for fans of the genre, if not the actual character himself, and I doubt Robert E. Howard would’ve lost any sleep over the way his characters were evolved.

REVIEW: CONAN THE ADVENTURER (1992)

CAST

Michael Donovan (ReBoot)
Michael Beattie (Minions)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)
Doug Parker (Robocop: Alpha Commandos)
Janyse Jaud (Adoption Stories)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)

The first season of “Conan the Adventurer” runs a merciful 13 episodes, 51 less than the second season where the series changed from a weekly installment, to a daily one, however that doesn’t excuse its utter mediocrity. Initially “Conan the Adventurer” displays signs of a serialized narrative format, following a hokey origin story leaving Conan’s family frozen in time as stone statues, the after effect of the evil serpent sorcerer, Wrath-Amon. However, these hopes are quickly dashed and it becomes evident this Conan’s adventures will be very generic and almost always wrapped up after two episodes. Now, I fully understand the series is a cartoon aimed at young kids and to expect the fearless, brutal warrior is wholly inappropriate, but ultimately, Conan shouldn’t be directed towards kids in the first place.
At the core, “Conan the Adventurer” is a generic fantasy adventure that happened to luck into the Conan name and some elements of the source material. There are references to Crom, Conan is a fierce warrior, his infamous sword is a major element of battles, and some villains are clearly inspired by preexisting Conan characters. Yet, like so many cartoons that preceded and followed, the creators didn’t have the confidence to let Conan carry the stories and instead saddled him with a coalition of ethnically diverse warrior stereotypes including Zula, an African warrior, Jezmine, acrobat, Greywolf, an Indian inspired wizard with werewolves for a brother and sister, and Snagg, Viking comic relief. If that weren’t enough a magic Phoenix and Conan’s trusty horse join our crew which often is in pursuit of the Snake Cult, but periodically gets waylaid by entirely out of place villains of the week, including a band of ninjas that promptly make Conan look like a chump.
Generic archetypes and cookie-cutter plotting aside, “Conan the Adventurer” does have its moments that should please kids. Themes of honor and loyalty run rampant throughout the series and while these might seems counter intuitive to a barbarian, are a welcome addition for impressionably youngsters. Likewise, the 22-minute episodes follow a formulaic but consistent story arc: initial encounter/fight leads to conflict leads to resolution. Sometimes the resolutions are filled with action, while other times the action is cut short for a moral to be told. It’s an admirable but shaky approach, ultimately betraying a lot of what the character should be. “Conan the Adventurer” is definitely not the best cartoon series to rediscover, but at least it’s more grounded fantasy than most.

REVIEW: CONAN THE DESTROYER

CAST

Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator)
Grace Jones (Vamp)
Wilt Chamberlain (Any Given Sunday)
Mako (Memoirs ofa Geisha)
Tarcey Walter (Batman)
Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)
Olvia D’Abo (Point of No Return)
Pat Roach (Raiders of The Lost Ark)
Jeff Corey (True Grit)
Sven-Ole Thorsen (Mallrats)
Andre The Giant (The Princess Bride)

Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his companion, the thief Malak (Tracey Walter), are confronted by Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas) of Shadizar. She tests their combat ability with several of her guards. Satisfied, she tells Conan that she has a quest for him. He refuses her, but when she promises to resurrect his lost love, Valeria, Conan agrees to the quest. He is to escort the Queen’s niece, Jehnna (Olivia d’Abo), an innocent who is destined to restore the jeweled horn of the dreaming god Dagoth; a magic gem must first be retrieved that will locate the horn. Conan and Malak are joined by Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain), the eunuch captain of Taramis’s guard. Bombaata has secret orders to kill Conan once the gem is obtained.

Because the gem is secured in the fortress of a powerful wizard, Conan seeks the help of his friend, Akiro (Mako), the Wizard of the Mounds. Akiro has been captured by a tribe of cannibals, and must first be rescued. Afterward, the adventurers encounter Zula (Grace Jones), a powerful bandit warrior being tortured by vengeful villagers. Freeing Zula at Jehnna’s request, Conan accepts the indebted warrior’s offer to join their quest.274b0-conan-the-destroyer_1984-1-1920x1080_scrollerThe adventurers travel to the castle of Toth-Amon (Pat Roach) where the gem is located. As they camp for the night, the wizard takes the form of a giant bird and kidnaps Jehnna. The others wake in time to see the bird enter the castle. Sneaking in through a water gate, they search the castle, but Conan is separated from the group and the others are forced to watch him battle a fierce man-beast. Conan mortally wounds the creature, which is revealed as another form of Toth-Amon. With the wizard’s death, the castle begins to disintegrate, forcing the group’s hasty retreat. They are ambushed by Taramis’s guards, but drive them off. Bombaata feigns ignorance about the attack. The gem reveals the location of the jeweled horn. Jehnna expresses romantic interest in Conan, but he rebuffs her and declares his devotion to Valeria.
They reach an ancient temple where the horn is secured. Jehnna obtains it while Akiro deciphers engravings. He learns that Jehnna will be ritually sacrificed to awaken Dagoth. They are attacked by the priests who guard the horn. A secret exit is revealed, but Bombaata blocks the others’ escape and seizes Jehnna. Despite this treachery, Conan and his allies escape the priests and trek to Shadizar to rescue Jehnna. Malak shows them a secret route to the throne room. Conan confronts Bombaata and kills him in combat. Zula impales the Grand Vizier (Jeff Corey) before he can sacrifice Jehnna. Because Bombaata and the Vizier were “impure sacrifices”, the rising Dagoth (André the Giant) becomes distorted from a beautiful human form into a monstrous entity. Dagoth kills Taramis, then attacks Conan. Zula and Malak join the fight, but are effortlessly swept aside by the entity. Grappling with the monster, Conan tears out Dagoth’s horn, weakening the creature enough to kill him.
Afterward, the newly crowned Queen Jehnna offers each of her companions a place in her new court: Zula will be the new captain of the guard, Akiro the queen’s advisor, and Malak the court jester. Jehnna offers Conan marriage and the opportunity to rule the kingdom with her, but he declines and departs to find further adventures and his own place in the world.Excellent picture on blu ray very very good if your a fan of arnie then buy it anyway you wont be disappointed with this blu ray!

 

REVIEW: CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)

 

CAST

Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator)
James Earl Jones (Star Wars)
Max Von Sydow (Game of Thrones)
Sandahl Bergman (Red Sonja)
Ben Davidson (Behind The Green Door)
Cassandra Gava (The Amityville Curse)
Gerry Lopez (Big Wednesday)
Mako (Memoirs ofa Geisha)
Valérie Quennessen  (Sumemr Lovers)
William Smith (The Outsiders)

Conan the Barbarian is a film about a young barbarian’s quest to avenge his parents’ deaths. The story is set in the fictional Hyborian Age, thousands of years before the rise of modern civilization. The film opens with the title card, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”, a paraphrasing of Friedrich Nietzsche, followed by a voice-over that establishes the film as the story of Conan’s origin.After watching his father forge a sword, Conan is told of the Riddle of Steel, an aphorism on the importance of the metal to their people, the Cimmerians. Soon after, the Cimmerians are massacred by a band of warriors led by the evil wizard Thulsa Doom with Conan’s father killed by the band’s dogs. After watching his father’s newly forged sword being used by Doom to decapitate Conan’s mother, Conan is taken into slavery where he is chained to a large mill, the “Wheel of Pain”, for years. Having grown into a strong man, Conan is then sold to a new master and trained to be a gladiator. Eventually, after winning many pit fights, Conan is freed. While fleeing from wild dogs, Conan stumbles upon an ancient tomb and takes refuge inside it. Inside the tomb, he finds an Atlantean General’s ceremoniously displayed corpse along with his sword which he takes as his own. As he wanders the world, Conan encounters a young witch, with whom he has sex in exchange for information about Doom. However, she turns into a demon mid-coitus, forcing Conan to drive her off. Conan also befriends the witch’s captive Subotai, a thief and archer who becomes Conan’s companion.
Following the witch’s advice, Conan and Subotai go to Shadizar, in the land of Zamora, to seek out Doom. They meet Valeria, a female brigand. The three burgle the “Tower of Serpents”, a temple of Doom’s snake cult, and steal a large jewel—the Eye of the Serpent—and other valuables; Conan and Subotai also battle and slay a large snake, to which a girl was about to be sacrificed. After escaping with their loot, the thieves celebrate and end up in a drunken stupor. Conan and Valeria fall in love. The city guards capture them and bring them to King Osric. He requests they rescue his daughter, who has joined Doom’s cult. Subotai and Valeria do not want to take up the quest; Conan, motivated by his hatred for Doom, sets off alone to the villain’s Temple of Set.
Disguised as a priest, Conan infiltrates the temple but he is discovered, captured, and tortured. Doom lectures him on the power of flesh, which he demonstrates by compelling a girl to leap to her death. He then orders Conan crucified on the “Tree of Woe”. The barbarian is on the verge of death when he is discovered by Subotai and brought to Akiro, the Wizard of the Mounds and Conan’s future chronicler, who lives on a burial site for warriors and kings. The wizard summons spirits to heal Conan and warns that they will “extract a heavy toll”, which Valeria is willing to pay. These spirits also try to abduct Conan, but he is restored to health after Valeria and Subotai fend them off.
Subotai and Valeria agree to complete Osric’s quest with Conan and they infiltrate the Temple of Set as the cult indulges in a cannibalistic orgy. Though they succeed in getting away with the princess, Valeria is killed by Doom using a stiffened snake as an arrow. After cremating Valeria at the Mounds, Conan prepares with Subotai and Akiro to deal with Doom’s men through booby-traps and exploiting the terrain. During the fight, Valeria reappears for a brief moment as a Valkyrie to save Conan from a mortal blow.Conan recovers his father’s sword during the fight, although its blade is broken. After losing his men, Doom shoots another stiffened snake at the princess. Subotai blocks the shot and the villain flees to his temple.
 Conan sneaks back into the temple where Doom stands at the top of a long stairway, addressing the members of his cult. Conan confronts Doom, who attempts to mesmerize him, but the barbarian resists and uses his father’s sword to behead his nemesis, finally avenging the deaths of Valeria, his family, and his people. After throwing Doom’s head down the stairs, with his disillusioned followers leaving for their homes, Conan burns down the temple and returns the princess to her father before heading westward

The film that kicked started the Barbarian craze of the early 1980’s, often imitated but never equalled. Starring a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in a role which fit him like a glove Conan the Barbarian has it all from sword and sorcery to epic battles and even a reasonably emotional back story, the film is justifiably a true classic of its time.