Saturday, August 21, 2010


While I enjoyed writing these reviews, I have discovered that doing them well simply requires too much time, and I don't want to do them poorly, therefore, I quit.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010) (Review)

     I knew I shouldn't have gone, but somehow, I couldn't resist.  I knew it was going to suck, but I had to find out, for myself, just how badly.

     "Clash of the Titans" is loosely based on the Ray Harryhausen, stop motion effects film by the same name and even more loosely on Greek mythology.  The Olympian gods are beginning to grow weak as humanity grow beyond their need for gods and stops worshiping them.  Actually, one kingdom, Argos, is waging war on the gods by destroying their temples and statues, thereby weakening them by depriving them of human prayers.  How they know this works is a mystery, but it does.  Hades hatches a plan to scare humanity back into worshiping them by destroying the city of Argos, but he is really trying to destroy the other gods and rule for himself.  Meanwhile, Perseus, son of Zeus, half god, half man, grows up knowing nothing of his true nature, loses his family to Hades, and broods throughout half of the movie.  The other half he spends letting people die because he doesn't like his god half and refuses to use it until everyone else is dead and he absolutely has to.  (Spoiled ingrate.)  There are lots of amped up, CGI battle scenes, some for no reason whatsoever, Perseus has to be practically carried on most of the journey because he'd rather brood over his dead family and his origin than do anything about it, and Zeus gives Perseus all the help he could ever need despite the fact that Zeus doesn't know there is a plot against him and he, himself, ordered Argos to be destroyed, the very event Perseus (or the people dying around him) is trying to prevent.  (Huh?)

     There is absolutely no reason for this movie to exist except to show epic battle scenes between Perseus and various mythological creatures and the gods, and those scenes are all sadly less than epic due to Perseus' whining insistence to not unleash his inner god.  The plot is full of holes and rushes along as it tries to get just enough story in to justify the next CGI, action sequence.  Sam Worthington, as Perseus, is lifeless and bland.  His character displays no emotion and he couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag.  The love story between Perseus and the other demi-god Io (wasn't it supposed to be the princess Andromeda?) is equally emotionless and must be spelled out for anyone to know it exists.  They did eliminate the corny mechanical owl as comic relief, but replaced it with two awkward hunters who stumble over each other and, somehow, manage to not die.  (The owl would have been preferable.)  The music is reminiscent of every factory or conveyor belt scene from any Looney Tunes cartoon.1  There are a few attempts at morals for the story, like ruling with love is better than ruling with fear or it's better to be a man than a god, but these attempts to inject meaning or substance into the story are clumsy executed and quickly become tiresome. 

     I watched the 2-D version, so I can't intelligently comment on the 3-D elements, but no theaters in the intimidate area were showing the 3-D version, despite available screens, and I think I know why.  I have read that the movie was originally not shot or rendered in 3-D, so it had to be converted, which lead to blurry action and odd, floating body parts.2  Whatever the case, I wouldn't recommend this movie in 2-D, much less paying extra for 3-D.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon (Review)

     Slim picking at the theater this weekend.  I almost didn't go to see anything, but then I started to read things about DreamWorks' new offering.  Things like, it's darker than you'd think and you shouldn't take small children.  With nothing else playing locally and boredom setting in, that was enough to get me into a theater, and it was an enjoyable enough afternoon.  

     Based on children's books by Cressida Cowell, "How to Train Your Dragon" is about Hiccup, (yes, Hiccup, it is a kids story,) a young Viking who isn't exactly like his Viking brethren.  He's not strong, he's smart, and he lacks a lust for battle and death, though he does try to fit in.  He also lives on an island frequented by swarms of dragons.  Our young hero, through brains and determination, manages to down and cripple a dragon, but he does not have the heart to kill the beast.  Rather, he builds a prosthetic tail fin for the dragon, which allows the dragon to fly again, so long as Hiccup is riding and working the tail fin.  In the end, the village is saved, the dragons become welcome, and everyone learns a lesson about not killing stuff.  Oh, and there is some rather dark symmetry between Hiccup and his dragon. 

     Yes, this is, at heart, a kids movie, but it is not one that panders to children and throws in the occasional double entendre to keep parents awake.  The dragons aren't anthropomorphic and they don't talk.  They are animals.  Some are more intelligent than others, but they act like animals should.  The same goes for the people.  Adults act as adults should and so do the younger characters.  The story is, generally, predictable, but there are some surprising, and sometimes shocking, moments you won't see coming.  There are a few, intense battle sequences, but despite talk of people and dragons dying, you don't actual see any dead dragons or people, though some older Vikings do bear the marks of past battles, including missing limbs.  That is where the movie might not really be appropriate for younger children.  (That, and the ending!)  The 3-D isn't bad or distracting, but it is also useless.  It's noticeable in some of the flying scenes, but that's about it. 

     I don't normally go for this type of movie, children's films or anything about dragons, but "How to Train Your Dragon" has a real human side to it.  The story was predictable, but it wasn't boring and was just different enough to keep me interested through to the final, climactic, battle scene and it's dark, yet feel good epilogue.  There's no reason to rush out and see it in theaters, but, with what's in theaters now, you could do worse. 

The Ghost Writer (Review)

     Other than "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown," I knew nothing of Roman Polanski's work, and the truly odd collection of Polanski films that the Alamo Drafthouse was using as its pre-movie entertainment was beginning to make me nervous.  I had nothing to be nervous about though.  Polanski is obviously a master and "The Ghost Writer" is proof.

     "The Ghost Writer" is about, well, a ghost writer (they never say his name!) played by Ewan McGregor.  He is contracted to finish the memoir of fictional British Prime Minister, Adam Lang, played by Pierce Brosnan.  The memoir is unfinished because the previous ghost writer is now a ghost, and the circumstances of his death become increasingly intriguing the deeper McGregor's character gets into the life of Brosnan's Blair/Bush like Prime Minister.  There is an incredible amount of intrigue and mystery and just when you think you know where everything is going, the rug gets pulled out from under you. 

     Everything about this film is absolutely brilliant.  Polanski's writing and directing are amazing, Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, and Olivia Williams, as Lang's wife, are all thoroughly engaging and convincing, the story is all intrigue and mystery, the ending is surprising, shocking, and coldly morbid, yet all too real, and the entire movie mirrors real life almost too accurately.  I'm sorry if I'm being a bit general, but I don't want to ruin a moment of this suspense masterpiece. 

     "The Ghost Writer" is a thoroughly engaging and masterfully executed suspense thriller and well worth seeing again and again.

The Runaways (Review)

    A true story, an indie film, chicks that rock, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  I couldn't wait.  

     "The Runaways" is the true story of one of Rock's first all female bands, The Runaways.  Based on the memoir by former band member Cherie Currie, the film chronicles the rise and fall of The Runaways, focusing on two of its founding members, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie.  The story is one very familiar to Rock, a meteoric rise followed by a drug induced crash back to reality, but it's told in a way that's empowering without preaching and captures the intoxicating excitement of being a rock star. 

     I thoroughly enjoyed "The Runaways."  Kristen Stewart is amazing as Joan Jett and she shows that she can play something more than just twilight style teen angst.  (This was the 70's.  No teen angst.  You just got pissed and rebelled!)  Even more stunning is Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie.  Fanning is absolutely brilliant as she sheds her child star mantel and takes her rightful place in the adult acting world, despite the fact that both she, and her character, are under-aged.  Rounding out the cast is Michael Shannon, who plays the band's promoter and manager, the insanely manic Kim Fowley.  Shannon absolutely nails the self centered narcissism, and possible genius, of Fowley.  Plus there's plenty of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  (Did I mention that already?) 

     Missing from this adaptation are some of the darker aspects of Joan Jett's and Cherie Currie's early lives.  There is no real mention of rape or abuse.  The worst we see is the effects of  the Currie's parent's divorce and Currie's father's crippling alcoholism.  This movie is dark enough without them and would likely be in danger of becoming a made for Lifetime movie if it delved any deeper into Jett and Currie's troubled pasts.  

     "The Runaways" balances the extreme ecstasy of Rock stardom with the harsh realities of fame while telling the bitter, true story of a group of girls who made rock history.  Watch it for the sex and drugs and love it for the rock and roll!