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As I’ll mention over and over again (like I’m Nelly and Tim McGraw!), I think Philip K. Dick writes near-perfect stories. Really, M. Night Shyamalan writes like a poor man’s Philip K. Dick. Their stories have a similar structure, and tend to have a similar portrayal of reality. It is just that Philip K. tends to have sharper twists, and warmer stories. It also interesting to note the range of directors who have tried their hand at Philip K. Dick movies. Ridley Scott, Paul Verhoeven, Steven Spielberg, John Woo, and Richard Linklater have all directed adaptations. Their movies, along by those done by perhaps lesser lights, have achieved varying levels of success. Where “success” is naturally defined as how much I like a movie. Here’s how I’d rank them:

8. Next

I don’t what anyone says, Nic Cage is great. And Jessica Biel is quite lovely, if a tad overrated. But they have negative chemistry in this clunker of a movie. Uninteresting throughout the movie, the climax is totally unsatisfying. It does get some points for that cool scene with lots of Nicholas Cages. We’ll ignore the fact this was directed by a Bond director.

7. Blade Runner

I fell asleep five different times when attempting to watch this movie on three different occasions. And I tend to have trouble sleeping. There are certainly intriguing idea in the movie/story, but the film is horribly boring.

6. Screamers

It stars Peter Weller, so that’s a plus. If you squint really hard, you can kinda see some very vague outlines of the plot of Battlestar Galactica. But you’ll also see why Battlestar Galactica works as a series and wouldn’t as a movie. The plot is thin, and the twists are sadly telegraphed, due to lack of other options presented. To wit, the trailer gives away basically the entire movie. It does get marks for having an incredibly creepy kid.

5. A Scanner Darkly

I recently proffered my thoughts on this one. Again, the rotoscoping is rather amazing, but the story just isn’t as interesting as it should be. And The Twist doesn’t have the impact of a good Philip K. Dick twist.

4. Impostor

Released the first week of 2002, Impostor and Screamers may be the two little known movies on this list. It has a rather stellar cast which includes Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Mekhi Phifer, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Tony Shalhoub. And if you think a movie with the latter two isn’t worth watching, you haven’t been paying attention. While Impostor does have some of the flaws found in movies adapted from short stories, I think it does a good job capturing the feel of Philip K. Dick’s world. The alienation, the eternal question of what it means to be human. And the ending is pretty solid.

3. Minority Report

Minority Report is a really good movie. It has the best special effects of any Philip K. Dick film, but they are used to support an interesting story. The standard Philip K. Dick tropes of “What is reality?” and “Is there such a thing as too much technology” really shine through. The only knocks might be that it gets a bit saggy during its long run time, and it is maybe a little bit too glossy.

2. Paycheck

Ben Affleck gets a bum rap as an actor. There, I said it. And Paycheck is underappreciated. I might even argue it improved upon the short story. And, come on, Aaron Eckhart and Paul Giamatti! The plot is really interesting. Future you tells you to take these twelve tchotchkes and use them to save the world. We again see Dick’s warning of the danger of technology, but also his genius, as it applies to what would happen if we could know the future. And we get to puzzle out the riddle of each object.

1. Total Recall

Well, obviously. This competition was over before it started. Total Recall has a basically perfect blend of action, humor, campiness, commentary, sexiness, Philip K. Dickosity, and Schwarzenegger. I can’t hope to top I-Mockery’s post about it, though. Total Recall is just an amazing movie. And the ending will blow your mind.

I know we’re supposed to hate Uwe Boll. Of course, that’s probably just going to bias me in his favor, given my general taste in movies. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale was the first Uwe Boll joint I had the pleasure of watching. And really, I don’t see what the fuss is about. ItNotK:ADST was a perfectly decent movie. There are plenty of better movies to watch, but the film is certainly watchable.

The screenplay of In the Name of the King, by Doug Taylor (based on a story by him, Jason Rappaport and Dan Stroncak) tells a relatively standard fantasy story. In the interest of full disclosure, my two least favorite genres may be documentary and fantasy. Sue me. Jason Statham plays a farmer (named Farmer!) seeking revenge who ultimately teams up with the King’s army to defeat an evil sorcerer-villain-type and his army of bad guys.

The movie’s cast is most impressive. Jason Statham is the lead, and he’s perfect serviceable as the reserved hero who just wants to protect his family but is destined for so much more. Ron Perlman plays his gruff, talkative friend who kicks a$$. Which is just about the ideal role for him, obviously. John Rhys-Davies is a poor man’s Merlin, and I’m a fan of his, though I think he could have been more of a presence in the film. Matthew Lillard plays the King’s idiotic semi-evil nephew who wants to usurp the throne. Which, again, is pitch perfect casting. Also want to mention Brian J. White, who doesn’t have an especially meaty character, but imdb says his first role was in The MatchMaker (uncredited) and he was also in Brick, so I have to show him some love.

And then, oh man, and then Burt Reynolds as the King. Which is exactly as ridiculous as you are picturing. Finally, Ray Liotta as the evil sorcerer. In my mind, I put Ray Liotta as sort of the evil Keanu Reeves. Because Keanu Reeves isn’t actually capable of playing a real human being. He doesn’t talk like people talk, and if you ever take a second to watch, he doesn’t seem to walk like people walk. Which, don’t get me wrong, doesn’t mean I don’t like him. Because he can be great. But I’d describe Ray Liotta similarly, except that he’s flat out creepy.

The women of the movie are all quite attractive: LeeLee Sobieski as Rhys-Davies’ well-meaning daughter who gets screwed by Ray Liotta and wants to fight in the army, Claire Forlani as Farmer’s wife, and Kristanna Loken as the leader of a group of peace-loving forest-dwellers. And I’ll offer significant props to Boll and Taylor for making them all mostly-essential to the plot, generally strong characters. Possibly the most frustrating/impressive part of it all is how tastefully dressed all three remain during the entire movie.

Adam prompted me to see the movie, and he made some very good points concerning the special effects, so I’ll leave off that discussion, in the hopes he picks it up in the comments or in a post. The battle scenes were generally awesome, though they did seem a bit awkward. They didn’t feel entirely necessary, though. As if they had been shoehorned into the story, which was disappointing.

As I mentioned, the story is standard, though marginally engaging. Some of the intrigues and disparate storylines coming together could probably have been tightened up. Ultimately, I think you are likely to come out of In the Name of the King with exactly what you were expecting. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Trailer after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

May 2008