Posts Tagged ‘entertainment



26
Jul
10

Does ‘Inception’ Make Nolan the New Morpheus

A heist movie of the subconscious.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joesph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. Directed by Christopher Nolan

A heist movie. A psychological thriller. One-hundred percent Christopher Nolan.

I’m going to be as unbiased as I can possibly be in reviewing this one. I’ve been a fan of Nolan’s work since “Memento,” (having watched it in theaters at least three times) and count him as one of the best current filmmakers, if not one of the best of all time. He is the psychological storytelling of Alfred Hitchcock mixed with the technical side of Ridley Scott.

What is “Inception?” That’s been the big question on everyone’s minds as the trailers haven’t shown or given away much. The truth is: they can’t. Explaining this film in under five minutes is like saying “Memento” is about a guy with memory problems or “The Prestige” is about two magicians trying to outdo the other. Yes, both quips are technically correct but lack the gravitas of what the films are truly about.

Leo DiCaprio is Dom Cobb, a man living on the edge of heightened paranoia and concern. What he does isn’t exactly legal -breaking into the thoughts and dreams of other individuals to steal their secrets- all the meanwhile trying to evade the Cobalt Group (for a job that apparently went wrong) and U.S. authorities for skipping country because of a misunderstanding in the regards to the death of his wife Mal (Cotillard). He’s caught between running from reality and the sadomasochism of his dream world where he returns repeatedly to the memories of being with his wife, their times together, her death, etc.

The “forward chronology” of the movie starts in what appears to be a dream -Saito (Watanabe) is holding something secret and Cobb and the gang have to extract his secret. Easier said than done. Cobb is able to retrieve the secret but not before Mal, the thorn inside his dream world, causes problems for him. Cobb then returns to an apartment where his team and Saito are at and Saito is not impressed until he finds that they’re in yet another dream. Cobb and Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) try getting out of Tokyo but not before Saito proposes a job: he wants the heir of an electrical conglomerate Robert Fischer, Jr. (Murphy) to disband the company en whole.

Therein lies the challenge: not extraction, but the inception of an idea. To make the guy whose head you’re inside BELIEVE that he came up with the idea himself. Arthur contends that it’s just not possible but Cobb believes, on the border of knowing, that it CAN be done. And the prize? Saito is powerful enough to get Cobb waived through immigration so he can see his children James and Phillipa again who are staying with his in-laws.

Speaking of which, he travels to Paris to meet with his father-in-law Miles (Caine) who taught him everything he knows about controlling dreams except for the heist business. Dom pleads for help for the quintessential “one last job”: he needs an architect, someone who can help design a dream world. He’s introduced to Ariadne (Page), who gets interested/addicted to the idea of building dream worlds on a larger scale and joins the team.

Rounding out the rest of the crew is the “chemist” Yusuf (Dileep Rao), the information/research/impersonator Eames (Tom Hardy), and “tourist” Saito. The chemist has a drug that will prolong the dream state, Eames does covert intel on the guy, and Saito is just there to watch it happen (or help make it happen). They conceive the idea of a three-layer dream to get into Fischer’s head and give him the idea that his father (Pete Postelthwaite) doesn’t want him following in his shoes and should disband the entire company. When Fischer’s father passes they have the perfect window of opprotunity – ten hours – to pull it off. Mission: Psychological is on…

But not without a few snags. Remember Mal? When everyone is dreaming there’s a shared state of consciousness and she often appears at inopportune moments causing a debilitating state for Dom. If that’s not enough Fischer has military “projections” (filler people in the dream world). Seems that bit of intel escaped Eames. Trouble comes in threes and after Saito is shot time is shortened and the stakes run high. Will Dom and company be able to plant the idea in the guy’s head? Will they even get to that point? Will Mal screw everything up? Will Cobb see his children again? Will any of them survive? And so forth.

I loved the movie. It begins like a dream – you don’t know where it really begins or why – and it ends on a note that makes you question all that you just watched. It’s smart, the cinematography (especially for the hallway fight scene) is great, and it’s one-hundred percent story. The camera becomes an invisible person of sorts and you’re strapped into your chair for the ride.

Some critics have hailed “Inception” as Nolan’s magnum opus. Roger Ebert cited that Nolan had been working on the script/story for ten years. I’m in agreement. Film students watching Nolan’s work could cite many of the themes in this movie are carried over from previous ones: the guy so in love with his wife that he cannot forget her (“Memento”), a father dying and his son having to come to terms not only with the death but of becoming heir to a giant corporation (“Batman Begins”), a man who will grow old and probably die alone (“Insomnia”) and being reunited with children (“The Prestige”). “Inception” takes all of these, and maybe a few more, and rolls them into one cinematic pill to swallow.

Nolan once talked about “Memento” saying that as the life of Leonard Shelby unraveled, so did his conscience while he was making the film. It makes you ask how you remember what you remember. “Inception” asks not only about memories but of the stuff we make up, whether it’s to set us free or imprison, and how do we deal with what’s going on. Dreams are more than our escape.

Not only did Nolan take some of his best tricks and throw them in, but his cast and crew are some he’s worked with before. Ken Watanabe was in “Batman Begins,” Cillian Murphy was in both, and Michael Caine has been in every Nolan film since “Batman Begins.”

Will the movie payoff in the long run? I would like to say yes but it’s a hard sell: a heist movie/ psychological thriller. It’s more intellectual than, say, “Inside Man.” The beginning is a bit slow and detached but once you’re into the movie you’re with every frame until the very end. As for the end itself there is no clear answer as to what really happens, but I have my theories.

My grade: A

If you’re interested in hardboiled thriller, check out the blog story “The Big Adios” at:

http://aidencobb.blogspot.com


08
Jul
10

Is “Prince of Persia” Better than its Game-sake?

Who knew Disney could be so violent?

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, and Alfred Molina. Directed by Mike Newell

“Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” is the latest of the video game based movies-genre. It’s not bad but this is a movie which means that within six months after it’s released on video it’ll pretty much be forgotten. It’s not going to hit the iconic status of such previous fare as “Cloak and Dagger,” or even the first “Mortal Kombat” movie but in its own “sands of time” it may be reflected on better than say, “Silent Hill,” “Doom,” or even “Super Mario Brothers” (which has a cult status as being incredibly horrible in its own right).

Turning back to ye olden days of lore we go back to the ancient Persian empire. The story kicks-off with a young Dastan (William Foster), a homeless kid who defends a friend from the royal guard. When King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) takes notice of him, he adopts him into his family.

Cut to the now where Dastan (Gyllenhaal) is grown and living with royal blood brothers Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle). A council meeting is held between the three in regards to invading the holy city of Alamut. Word has it that the city has a weapons forgery and while Alamut has not been taken for at least a thousand years, there’s a first time for everything. Without the King’s consent the three brothers mount an attack on the holy city.

Still the quick-thinking street-thief, Dastan takes his small group, scales the eastern wall, and gets in. A short matter of time later Alamut is taken for the kingdom of Nasraf. Alamut’s protector, Princess Tamina, prays at an altar. Tus sends men to find the weapons forgery which Tamina claims does not exist.

A ceremony is given to King Sharaman, turning the city over to him. At first he’s dismayed that his sons have taken over the holy city but accepts it from them, wanting to unite the kingdoms. During the ceremony Dastan presents to him a religious cloak. Sharaman’s brother Nizam (Kingsley) puts it on him. Sharaman gives Princess Tamina to Dastan as his first wife. Within moments Dastan’s good fortune is shattered: the cloak is poisoned and Dastan is blamed for the King’s death. Dastan and Tamina are now on the run for their lives.

What Dastan doesn’t know, and Tamina is reluctant to tell him, is that the dagger he is carrying is special. How special? It contains the sand of time and when the button on the hilt is pressed the holder goes back in time for one minute (great for parlor tricks). This comes in handy several times however this is a limited supply of “correct” sand to use in it. Tamina steals it back, then Dastan gets a hold of it again, etc. back and forth.

Along the way they encounter Sheik Amar (Molina), an entrepreneur of sorts who runs a city of cutthroat thieves. Their main source of entertainment is ostrich racing. Realizing Dastan and Tamina have a heavy bounty on their heads Amar and his company continues tracking them after they make it out of the city.
And let’s not forget about the real “man behind the curtain”: Nazim. The story of how Nazim saved Sharaman is a pivotal point to the entire movie (and I won’t give it away) but that, and the sands of time, put the entire future of the kingdom into jeopardy. Just sayin’

So, how is the movie? Well, there’s action, adventure, and enough PG-13 violence to go around for a while. I was actually surprised that Disney would show people sword-fighting, getting stuck by arrows, etc. But, maybe it’s a new Disney. I’m not complaining mind you and if “The Black Hole” is any indication of where Disney can go as far as the elements of story, then “PoP” is pretty tame by comparison.

Gyllenhaal has his workout cut-out for him as he jumps, slides, runs, scrambles, fights, punches, kicks, runs up walls, across roofs, ducks, dives, dodges, and whatever other action-verbiage I can’t think up right now. Honestly, it really does seem at times as if he’s in the video game. A few times I wanted to bust out my invisible controller and keep punching the buttons.

Again, it’s not bad. Watchable. Enjoyable even. Someone called it “cheesy” and I disagree; it’s limited by being what it is –a video game movie. I can’t expect Shakespeare out of it anymore than I can expect the same from a superhero movie. There are going to be parts exactly like a video game and yes, it’s largely plotless.
Gemma Arterton (last seen in “Quantum of Solace”) is beautiful and plays her part well. Alfred Molina seems to be having some fun with his role. And should you ever find yourself in a movie in which Ben Kingsley is in it with you, chances are he’s the bad guy.

My grade: B-

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

08
Jul
10

“Kick-Ass” and Take Names

Or was that ass-kicked?

Starring Aaron Johnson, Clark Duke, Evan Peters, Lyndsy Fonseca, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Chloe Moretz, and Nicolas Cage. Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.

I will say it over and over again: I’m not a huge fan of the superhero genre. For every good superhero movie (“Superman,” “Batman,” “Spider-Man”) there are the less-than-stellar attempts at bringing others to the silver screen (“Daredevil,” “Hulk”) as well as attempts to resurrect a franchise (“Superman Returns,” “The Incredible Hulk”). And let’s not forget the made-up/not so renown ones (“Blankman,” “Steele”). I’m writing this on the eve of “Iron Man 2,” which I suspect will be the popcorn blockbuster that the first entirely was and that’s fine with me.

“Kick-Ass” is based on a darker graphic novel and follows Dave Lizewski, your Peter Parker-ish high school quintessential 98+ pound weakling. He’s in love with the beautiful but impossible to have Katie Deauxma (Fonseca). His two best friends Marty (Duke) and Todd (Peters) hang out with him each day at Atomic Comics. Dave’s life is the epitome of boring and mundane: he goes to school, his dad goes to work, they eat the same brand knock-off cereal, etc. In short, blah.

Out of this stagnation comes a twisted idea: what if he became a superhero, like in the comic books? His friends dismiss it saying that it would be crazy. Unless a person happened to be like Batman or whoever else why would anyone want to do it? Again, crazy idea. But not for Dave…

Hopping on the Net he orders a green with yellow trim wetsuit and some batons. He adopts the name Kick-Ass and in the beginning he’s more the reverse: his ass gets kicked. He has no fighting skills or training or cache of money to rely on. This doesn’t deter him because he has the one thing that superheroes need: a heart. After an attempt to thwart carjackers leaves him bleeding from a stab wound, as well as getting hit by a car, he emerges from the hospital with enough metal inside him to rival Wolverine. This clinches his idea of becoming a superhero.

Enter the main bad guy, lumber supplier and drug kingpin Frank D’Amico (Strong). After a deal goes bad Kick-Ass is to blame and becomes his personal center of revenge. The kingpin’s son, Chris (Mintz-Plasse), concocts a plan to get close to Kick-Ass by becoming a superhero himself.

Kick-Ass finds allies in Hit Girl (Moretz) and Big Daddy (Cage). Big Daddy had been a cop who refused to bend to D’Amico and became framed. Sent to prison for five years his then wife OD’d on drugs but lived long enough to give birth to their daughter, Mindy. Mindy and father become reunited after he’s released whereby she becomes Hit Girl and he Big Daddy. Their mission: bring down D’Amico.

I’ll leave the story description there because let’s face it: you’ve seen the plot points before. What makes this movie differ from the rest is that it knows the source material that came before it and plays to the audience. Dave narrates the film with that “I’m telling you but you should probably already figure it out” sense of sarcasm. He knows that he doesn’t have the Batman story of revenge, or the Spider-Man story of being bitten by a radioactive spider. He knows and comes to terms with the fact that superheroes grace comic books for a reason: they are in an alternate reality. By finding his own humanity he does manage to become a superhero which is just as good.

My thoughts? I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. When Nicholson in “Batman,” exclaimed, “What this town needs is an enema,” he may as well have been talking about the superhero genre. After knowing the backstories to every-other Marvel or DC character and knowing the story arcs, we’ve become so accustomed to how the story is supposed to play out that all we can do is venture whether or not this set of characters did it well.

And these do. Kick-Ass goes from being the high school dork to superhero sensation. He befriends others trying to help the cause. He fights the bad guy and wins. And, there’s the offspring of a future nemesis.

Aside from this, “Kick-Ass” is a film I would suggest to young filmmaker wannabes/gonnabes because there are so many styles put into this film. Director Matthew Vaughn’s debut movie was “Layer Cake,” but this plays closer to “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” and “Snatch,” both movies he produced with Guy Ritchie. For those who miss the sense of humor those movies had in Ritchie’s current work check this one out; you’ll find the person it came from. Whether the movie plays like Ang Lee’s “Hulk,” or like “A Scanner Darkly,” or even like a video game, it keeps you on your toes for what to expect. It may not be the greatest achievement in film but I can liken it to “Kill Bill Vol. 1” in terms of mashing together various styles.

Aaron Johnson does a great job at being the high school dork-come-superhero with heart and I expect that he’ll get a lot more work because of it. I’m not going to guess what his range is but he played the part perfectly. Nic Cage does an interesting turn as Big Daddy, a Batman wannabe down to his lookalike custom and Adam West-pregnant pausing sentences.

The real thing about this movie is Mindy/Hit Girl. She’s twelve, cusses worse than a sailor, and could out-John Woo any situation. A lethal killing machine that hasn’t even gotten to high school yet. I’ve heard friends say that this is controversial in other cities and maybe they’re talking about it here. But hey guys: it’s just a movie. Sit back, relax, and try to have fun watching it.

I wish I could recommend this to everybody but I know that tastes vary and that there will be a lot of people offended by this one. So I’ll recommend this one to those who love superhero movies, those who like them, and those who are all about satire.

My grade: B+

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

09
Jun
10

“Dog” Couldn’t Help This ‘Bounty Hunter’

Building a (contrived/convoluted) mystery…

Starring Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston, Christine Baransky, and Dorian Missick. Directed by Andy Tennant

I imagine that in Hollywood there’s a real-life IMF (Impossible Missions Force). No, they don’t quell rebellions or sneak defectors out of countries; they’re job is to take implausible ideas that make no sense whatsoever, get a half-baked script, assign A-list (sometimes B) talent to the project, flood it with money and market the hell out of it. This highly-skilled covert Studio ops group are responsible for such things as making John Wayne look like a Mongol and Charlton Heston like a Mexican, greenlighting the career of M. Night Shyamalan, letting Arnold Schwarzenegger become pregnant in a movie, convincing us that Dane Cook is funny, and making action stars (like Ewan McGregor and Gerard Butler) into romantic leads. I think a conspiracy is afoot.

The movie opens and we’re introduced to Nicole Hurley (Aniston) and Milo Boyd (Butler). Milo’s sky-blue Cutlass is on fire from the trunk. He pulls over and stops, running to the back. Opening the trunk lid Nicole is waving a flare, kicks him in the groin, and runs out into a field. Milo immediately follows chase and tackles her the the ground. We find out that they are ex-husband and wife.

Then, we’re treated to see what happened in the twenty-four hours before that occurred. Enter Milo Boyd, alcoholic bounty hunter on a job. His target: a guy in an Uncle Sam costume on stilts. What Milo doesn’t know is that he’s being tracked by Dwight (Joel Garland), son of a bookie to whom Milo is $11,000 in the red. After a chase through a building and a float accidentally being set on fire, Milo captures his man but is taken in by police as well. He’s bailed out by his friend Bobby (Missick) who tells him that he should get over the divorce from his wife and not drink his life away.

Enter journalist/reporter Nicole Hurley, the only hot female on staff for her paper. Lovelorn loser Stewart (Jason Sudeikis) had a makeout session with her once at an office Christmas party when she was four sheets to the wind and thinks that they have something. She’s late for a court hearing because of a “traffic accident” (she side-swiped a police horse). When info on the suicide of a NYPD officer calls her to a location and time, she doesn’t show up at all. A bench warrant is issued for her arrest…

Which is convenient because the warrant is for $50,000. Sid (Jeff Garlin) promises Milo $5,000 if he can arrest his ex-wife and haul her to jail, which Milo is more than happy to do. Milo contacts his ex-mother-in-law Kitty (Baranski) who tips him off to the fact that she may be at the track. He intercepts her there and tries bringing her in.

Complications arise with the fact that Jimmy, the guy she was going to meet who had info on the police suicide, is kidnapped by a police officer/thug named Earl Mahler (Peter Greene) who is trying to keep everything a secret. Earl goes after Milo and Nicole to kill them both, keeping Jimmy locked in a closet at a tattoo parlor.

A few chuckles ensue as Milo and Nicole hate each other but have to keep each other alive as they avoid Dwight and Ray (sent by Irene, the bookie), Earl Mahler, and Stewart. Needless to say, plot problems and holes abound.

Sometimes I find myself asking, “Where did this movie go wrong?” and you can see from a distance the scene or point in time that everything went south. This is a movie in which you ask yourself, “Did anything in here go right?” Maybe I’m trying to hold a romantic comedy to a certain bar, but it’s the same bar I use for everything else. A movie should have a sense of accountability, not shrug it’s shoulder and be let off with a warning because it’s a rom-com.

That being said the main problem with this film is the story and its presentation. Both suck. The story was aiming to be like “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” but lacked the cool satire or even characters (or actors) that had chemistry with one another. Getting a $50,000 bench warrant for side-swiping an NYPD horse? Isn’t that extreme? Maybe it’s because of the cost of living… In a scene where an SUV is trying to push Milo’s Cutlass off the road, the SUV flips even though a) there’s no reason for it to flip and b) the guy who is driving it can fire a weapon and drive at the same time in an enclosed space, which takes some doing. I’m just saying…

And the characters were dumb a lot of times. Milo talks a good game a good chunk of the time but he’s no Duane Chapman (and this is from a guy who isn’t a fan). On a technical level he makes some bone-headed mistakes. Nicole does her fair share, too; in one scene they’re trying to avoid being killed by the police officer/thug/assassin and she’s walking on a concrete floor with high-heeled shoes. Smart.

This was the type of movie that a more-skilled director, like Guy Ritchie perhaps, could’ve done something with. Characters seemed to spout out lines that they didn’t feel comfortable in saying. Every time a plot point occurred I was looking for some guy on the far left or right to be pointing at a white sign that would say “This is what should be happening now.” It was so shoddily half-baked I almost expected a boom mic to fall into view at any moment. The shoot-out scene I mentioned above was so short and anti-climatic I wondered why they bothered having it at all.

A good bit of the problem (and what you really wanna know about) is the real question: do Aniston and Butler work well together? Well, “Gone With the Wind” it ain’t. Butler is a character actor and does well doing just that: portraying a character. Aniston plays Aniston playing whatever. These two worlds are like oil and water. For the first two-thirds of the film both of them barely look at another, as if they were forced to be on some blind date and a camera crew is taping them. After Aniston has a cry she’s “magically” into Butler and the rest runs fairly smoothly.

One final stake in the heart of this review is the music. The soundtrack pieces were okay and enjoyable; the incidental score seemed to “force” a feeling so much that a blind person could tell what was going on. “Are they creeping around in a dangerous place? ‘Cause that’s what the music sounds like.”

Final thoughts? I could not even recommend this over watching “Dog, the Bounty Hunter.”

My grade: C-

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

09
Jun
10

‘Bourne’ Dons Camo for the ‘Green Zone’

Mission Accomplished?

Starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Khalid Abdalla, and Yigal Naor. Directed by Paul Greengrass

Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass team up once again for what some would call ‘Bourne 4.’ (‘The Bourne Conspiracy’ maybe?) It’s not a ‘Bourne’ film per se but if the ‘Bourne’ series and ‘The Hurt Locker’ had it a kid, this would be it. That’s not entirely a bad thing.

Damon is Roy Miller, leader of the 85th Division whose job is to search for WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). It’s 2003 and the U.S. has just began its war with Iraq. We’re bombing the country on a daily basis and have cut off the water and electricity, which isn’t making things any easier.

On an intensive mission into a hotspot, Damon and his company close-in on an abandoned factory to find… nothing. Returning to base he tries questioning some of the higher ups about the intel and the fact that every place his company is sent to is complete bunk; there are positively no signs that WMDs were ever there or manufactured there. The ranking Officers quickly shut him up, stating that the intel comes from a reliable source. Before heading to Al Monsour CIA official Martin Brown (Gleeson) tells him that yes, the intel is bunk and if he wants to do the right thing to give him a call.

Enter Special Intelligence official Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear). He’s heading up the group who plans to put an Iraqi exile in control of the Iraqi government now that Saddam has went into hiding. He’s also the guy responsible for informing the President that there were WMDs. Brown points out that in order to keep the country from going into civil war they need to put in place an Iraqi who has ties to the people, not a guy who has been in exile for 30 years. Poundstone doesn’t want to hear any of it and continues on.

Add to the mix Washington Post columnist Lawrie Dayne (Ryan). Poundstone is her source for information in regards to a character named “Magellan,” who is the one providing the intelligence on the Iraqi WMD sites. Dayne wants to speak with Magellan to confirm her stories and Poundstone claims that it’s out of his hands; Magellan is tightly locked-up. Dayne points out that as the guy overlooking Special Intelligence he should have access to Magellan; Poundstone doesn’t give an answer.

The Al Monsour site is being dug up and Miller is pissed. He knows that there’s nothing to find. When an altercation with an Iraqi named “Freddy” (Abdalla) leads him to follow a suggestion, Miller nearly comes face-to-face with the enemy: General Al Rawi (Naor), Saddam’s righ-hand man. It appears that several of the leaders of the Iraqi Army made a pledge to hold off from attacking the Americans until an agreement/contract could be made. Miller comes in on the tail-end of that deal and a firefight causes Al Rawi to go into hiding. Miller takes Freddy along as an interpreter so he can get the infamous “Jack of Clubs” (Rawi’s picture is on a deck of Iraqi leader playing cards).

After a prisoner Miller took hostage is taken from him, Miller goes to Brown who helps him devise a plan to get to a guy who can help him get to Rawi. They both believe that Rawi in control of Iraq will help bring peace. Dayne meets Miller and agrees with him that the WMD site info is complete B.S. and she makes mention of Magellan? Who is he? Poundstone finds out that Miller took a notebook from the prisoner he took and gave it to the CIA. That notebook contains the information on Al Rawi safehouses. It’s only a matter of time before Rawi is killed and if Miller’s going to save him, he’s going to have to act quickly.

This film is a spy film/political thriller with Army people. Damon isn’t so much ‘Bourne’ as he is a guy who actually cares and says, “Hey, what a minute! What’s going on here?” He’s not as smart as Bourne but he’s smart and agile enough, which are qualities he needs if being The Guy Who Gets Into a Conspiracy Against Those Higher Than His Paygrade. You know the scenario: guy finds something wrong. The Powers That Be try ignoring him at first but he gets under someone’s skin and people around him are killed left and right while the hunt is on for him, and he’s trying to get the piece of evidence that will blow the lid off everything.

This formula works for the film and provides interesting parameters. That is, the ones around him can’t really be killed because they all work for the same organization. Aside from that, it’s an action-adventure conspiracy movie that will have you guessing what will happen until the end.

And that may not work for a lot of people. I’m a fan of the “thinking movie,” and for those wanting emotional attachment to characters, you’re not going to find it here. The characters work but aren’t too deep because they are serving the story which acts as a fiction “What if this is the reason behind the war in Iraq?” I repeat: it’s fictional. Those wanting the hard, intensive grittiness of “The Hurt Locker” won’t find it here; no one stops to assess the damage done.

Gleeson is interesting as a CIA official and pulls off a non-descript accent fairly well. Kinnear works as the Special Intelligence official who leads us into the war but he could have been a little more evil. Amy Ryan is limited to being a third-wheel in it all, but works. And Damon has solidified his ability to be a “thinking” action star.

As I said, I liked it. Some films you walk out and while you like them, they’re popcorn; digest and move on. I would seriously consider seeing this film a second time because it’s more about the story being told than the sum of the characters in it. And yes, Greengrass breaks out the Shaky-Cam but after a while it becomes acceptable because there is a hint of truth to the story going on. A hint. Again, it’s a fictional “What If?” scenario that doesn’t stop until you know what happened and while not the hard-hitting piece that “Hurt Locker” or ones like it are, it doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

My grade: B+

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

09
Jun
10

“Alice in Wonderland’s” Queen Trumps the Mad Hatter

Parable or allegory?

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, and Crispin Glover. Directed by Tim Burton. Based on the books “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll.

NOTE: I watched this in Disney Digital 3-D.

I’ve never been a big “Alice in Wonderland” fan. I know the gist of the story: girl follows a white rabbit into a hole and enters a strange land inhabited by the translucent Cheshire Cat, the insane Mad Hatter, befuddled twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum, March Hare, blue hookah-smoking Absolem the caterpillar, and the Queen of Hearts with the signature phrase: “Off with their heads!” That’s as much as I remember.

As of late there has been a lot of discussion about Alice’s adventures and whether or not it was really kid story material. Granted the initial novel was written over a hundred years ago, and yes times have changed, but what was the story about? The current consensus is that it’s a weird tale of a girl running into even weirder characters, moving from event to event. Tim Burton saw this challenge and decided to give his own spin and story structure to Carroll’s famous characters.

When this tale begins, Alice is four years old and confesses to her father that she’s been having a weird dream filled with these various characters. Her father reassures her that even though she may be mad/bonkers/off of her head, some of the best are a little mad.

It’s now fifteen years later and Alice’s father has recently passed. Alice (Wasikowska) is now nineteen years of age and being taken by her mother (unknowingly) to an engagement party. Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill) is a red-headed Lord with digestive problems who plans to propose to Alice. Everyone at the party knows that he plans on asking for her hand in marriage at the gazebo. Hamish has title and money and in interest of those times, Alice would be a fool not to accept. Her only other option is to wait and end up like her Aunt Imogene (Frances de la Tour), a woman physically in account but mentally in her own world, forever waiting for her prince to come. Standing at the gazebo, Hamish on his knees proposing, Alice is emotionally overwhelmed and runs away, chasing after the white rabbit and falling into a hole.

After getting past the “cake makes you bigger, potion makes you smalle” debacle, Alice enters Wonderland and finds a weird wasteland that unfolds. She’s escorted by the chubby, dimwitted twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum (voiced by Matt Lucas) and the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) to Absolem, a blue caterpillar smoking a hookah. The White Rabbit swears that she’s the correct Alice and Absolem replies that she’s not quite Alice yet. The Oraculum,” a scroll detailing the chronological history of all events regarding Alice, is produced and Alice is foretold to be the one who will save Underland by slaying the Jabberwocky, the Red Queen’s dragon.

Meanwhile, we meet the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), a small tyrant with a giant, heart-shaped head of red that has a moat filled with the heads of the beheaded including her husband, the former King. The Knave (Crispin Glover) is her right-hand man. He’s incredibly tall with a scar across his face and a heart-shaped eye patch that changes from black to red. After retrieving the Oraculum, he commissions a bloodhound named Bayard (voiced by Timothy Spall) to find Alice. Alice must evade the Knave and slay the Jabberwocky, along the way befriending the Mad Hatter (Depp), March Hare (voiced by Paul Whitehouse), and Mallymkun the Dormouse (voiced by Barbara Windsor). She must also get the Vorpal Sword and conquer the dragon, Jabberwocky.

But the real question is: does it live up to the hype?

If not for the fact that this is based on books whose characters have permeated pop culture history (“White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, anyone), probably not. If not for the fact that Johnny Depp is in it, probably not. If not for the fact that Tim Burton directed it, probably not. If one were to take out any of these three crucial elements, the film would’ve suffered. All three, and no one would have bothered to go see it.

Which brings me to say that as it lays, “Alice in Wonderland” is a good movie. Not great, but good enough. There’s a solid structure to the story going on which plays as either a parable or an allegory; you be the judge. The characters Alice meets in Underland are abstract caricatures of those back in the real world and just like the real world, Underland is forcing Alice to grow up; no more living life on her own terms of what she does or doesn’t want to do.

As noted in the title, the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) really sets this movie moreso than Depp. Depp is an interestingly complex Mad Hatter, sure enough, but this film really rests on the tyranny of the Queen of Hearts and in that department, Carter delivers. The Queen is more of a brat than a bitch per se which makes sense in Alice’s world.

On a filmmaking level this movie probably harkens more to “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” There is a level of kid-friendliness to it, mixed with Burton’s grasp of visual desolation, but underneath it all is a heroine who needs to come to bat in order to save the world/grow up. On a visual level it’s not “Avatar” nor is it meant to be, but Burton does a well-enough job mixing live action green-screen technology and CG characters.

One problem I had with the film was The White Queen (Hathaway). Imagine if Arwen from “Lord of the Rings” danced around prim and proper and was shot with a creme-colored filter. I have heard that the White Queen was supposed to be as mad as the Red Queen but not show it, and that’s acceptable, but the character just didn’t work for me; she seemed to belong more to Middle Earth.

The other problem I had with the film was in the final act, and there are two: first, the Mad Hatter is supposed to do a dance better than anyone else. He does a funky jig (infused with some hip hop music) that just looks too goofy for any seriousness. Then again, I might be taking it too seriously. The second problem is that attention is diverted from Alice trying to slay the dragon to the battle between the White and Red Queen’s armies. This was unneeded, seeing as the movie was about Alice learning to grow up and take responsibility as opposed to two sides waiting eternally for some prophetic day when both will battle for sole control of wherever.

One final note: my favorite character was the Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry). Great, cool character that was well done.

TRIVIA: Christopher Lee does the voice of the Jabberwocky. And for those who didn’t know, Lewis Carroll wrote that, too.

My grade: B

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

07
Jun
10

Male Bonding and the ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’

Just whisper “great white buffalo…”

Starring John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, and Clark Duke. Directed by Steve Pink

Crispin Glover: more hilarious than advertised.

It was bound to happen. Forget portals, wormholes, telephone boxes, DeLoreans, watches, or even an intricately-designed machine. All this crew needed was a “special” hot tub and a can of a Russian energy drink called Chernobylee. I honestly would have no clue as to what method Hollywood will use for time-travel next…

Adam (Cusack), Nick (Robinson) and Lou (Corddry) have been friends since high school. In the past twenty years, life has gone downhill for each. Adam is a workaholic whose wife just left him. His nephew Jacob (Duke) spends time living in the basement playing Second Life, where he’s currently doing prison time waiting for a court hearing. Nick gave up his dreams of music to marry his wife and now works at a vet clinic called ‘Sup Dawgs where he does anything from dog-walking to cleaning out an animals bowels. He also finds that his wife is cheating on him with a guy named Steve. Lou is a career alcoholic prone to suicidal attempts, the most current landing him in the hospital after closing his car in his garage and running the engine while drinking to death, singing “Home Sweet Home” by Motley Crue. Nick and Adam meet at the hospital where they take Lou home. They come to the conclusion that the one good part of their existence happened twenty years earlier at a ski lodge during the 1986 Winterfest. So, they pack up and go to the lodge.

Time is not as forgiving as memories and the small town the ski lodge is in looks to be the victim of recession. Once at the lodge the realize the bellhop Phil (Glover) is missing an arm, one of the staircases has been destroyed, etc. On the bright side they get the same room they rented twenty years earlier with a hot tub. After a night of serious drinking and bonding they wake to find themselves…

In 1986. Adam, Nick, and Lou look exactly as they did in that year (sorta like “Quantum Leap”) while Jacob, not being born yet, looks like himself. The unknowing time-travelers freak-out about the fact that they have their one glory weekend back. Do they do what they want to do? Can they remember what they did in the first place? Jacob brings up the “butterfly effect” theory which states that they have to do EXACTLY the same things as not to mess-up the space-time continuum. Adam has to endure his eye being stuck with a plastic utensil by a girlfriend he’s breaking up with, Nick must go up on stage and sing with his band, and Lou has to get his ass kicked by a member of the ski patrol. The events get even more mysterious when the hot tub repairman (Chevy Chase) seems to know what’s going on (kinda like Don Knotts in “Pleasantville”) and Jacob “phases” in and out (sort of like “Back to the Future”). If that wasn’t enough head ski patrol leader Blaine (Sebastian Stan) is convinced that the group is infiltrating the sky lodge for the Russians. Partying, sex, drugs, and hair-metal music keep things rolling as the group go from event to event and each person must come out of their shell and find out who they really are.

“Hot Tub Time Machine” may be one of the better mid-life crisis movies out there and one to be deep without being too deep. Yeah, there’s the piss-and-vinegar juvenilism of people in their early 20’s, but that’s only partly what it’s about. It’s about how we become who we are and the ever-immortal question of “knowing what you know now, would you go back and change anything?” I have several of those instances that I won’t talk about here…

As I noted earlier, Crispin Glover is one of the funniest characters in the film. When the group travels back in time he still has both arms and every scene has Glover almost losing his arm for one reason of the other (using a chainsaw to make an ice sculpture, getting it trapped in the elevator doorway).

Is it worth it? In a “weekend afternoon, got time to kill what’s on cable?” sorta way, yes. I liked it and it wasn’t as bad as the trailers made it out to be. It’s a comedy with a degree of heart and some substance.

My grade: B-

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

07
Jun
10

A Medical Credit Crunch and Its “Repo Men”

I wonder what they charge for a spleen.

Starring Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga, and Liev Schreiber. Directed by Miguel Sapochnik. Based on the book “The Repossession Mambo” by Eric Garcia

Some movies really do sound like good ideas. In our current economic situation, and with passing of the healthcare bill, and with previous mentions of a “medical FICA” score, a movie like “Repo Men” seems to have more than a grain of truth to it. What would happen if in the future you could buy a new heart/liver/lung/etc.? What would then happen of you ran behind on your payments and repo men actually came to take away said organ? And what happens if a repo man himself had these things happen to him?

Such is the premise for “Repo Men,” the latest and (not so) greatest sci-fi movie since “Surrogates” (itself based on a graphic novel). Here’s the thing: the premise is good, but the execution… not so much. Imagine “Blade Runner” without the noir or “Brazil” without Gilliam’s humor or ambition. Someone once stated that science fiction was supposed to be dramatic elements with a hint of techno-do. The problem here is that the technology, and the premise, are far more interesting than the dramatic elements.

The movie begins with Remy (Law) in someone’s apartment. The guy gets home with a hot blond woman, they start getting hot and heavy, and that’s when Remy introduces himself. Using his stun gun he disables both of them then quickly suits up to do some quick surgery to remove one of the guy’s organs. He claims that it’s “just a job.”

Which is what he continues telling himself, reiterating it over a few beers with buddy Jake (Whitaker). Remy narrates the fact that if you run behind on your car or house payments, the bank takes them but if you run behind on organ payments, that’s his job. The company he works for gets people to sign up for a new, state-of-the-art organ at 19% interest and if you fall behind… well, Remy and Jake are two of the best at knocking on your door and collecting.

Problems ensue with the fact that Remy’s wife Carol (Carice van Houten) isn’t too thrilled with her husband’s job and wants him to go into sales. Remy has a problem with this because it means that his pay will be cut in half and Jake doesn’t want to lose his best friend/partner who he’s known since 4th grade when he kicked Remy’s ass on the school playground. During an outdoor cookout Jake pulls a job in front of Remy’s house, collecting a kidney from a guy taking a cab ride, and Carol is quickly upset and takes their son Peter away. Remy decides to talk with his boss and take a sales job, but does one last “pink slip.”

He awakes in the hospital. Apparently the defibrillator he used to “shock” the heart of a musician with money problems short-circuited and knocked Remy out. Now he lays in a hospital bed with a new artificial, top-of-the-line heart. He doesn’t want it but the longer it stays in the more he grows accustomed to it. Jake and him hit the streets again to collect on some pink slips and he has… problems. He can’t do it. Going from collector to potential collectee client is not what he had in mind and his attitude towards it all changes. He falls behind on payments and leaves it all behind to become like those he hunted.

Meeting and saving Beth (Braga) he finds that she’s opposite of him: her heart is real but the rest of her body is made from replacement parts from other companies and countries. Meanwhile, back at the company ranch, their boss Frank (Schreiber) gives Jake the assignment of finding Remy and collecting his heart. Jake at first refuses but after breaking in and threatening Frank, he has no choice. The movie goes into action as Remy and Beth evade Jake while trying to find a way to get their accounts closed.

What a statement on the credit industry, if not a slightly muddled one. There are several problems with the film which are not just limited to the fact that it comes after a same-themed movie called “Repo! A Genetic Opera.” While I have not seen the “genetic opera” I can say that while the premise for both is intriguing, there’s a squeamish factor to the two; namely, opening someone’s skin and pulling out an organ, Not my idea of a fun time and I squirmed every time I saw it in the theatre (and yes, I know the organs and blood are all fake… it’s just the thought of it happening).

The main problem: structure. The beginning narration leads to a feeling that the character is ruminating on his job and that maybe there’s a social statement involved. Maybe. I’m all about sci-fi social statements (see: “District 9”). And “Repo Men” could’ve a wake-up slap in the face for the modern moviegoer in the same vein as “Fight Club” was a wake-up call against commercialism. It could’ve been. Instead, director Miguel Sapochnik gives up that idea once Remy is on the run and opts instead for action sequences which, while degrading the concept of it all, actually improves the movie because the beginning is so… muddled.

Which brings me to another point: without the core concept of organ repossession, I wouldn’t have made it through the first 30 minutes. I could’ve really cared less about Remy and Jake because their characters do exactly what you think they would do and there’s nothing really interesting about them. After Remy goes “off the reserve” he becomes interesting, but that takes a while. Forest Whitaker as Jake is okay and let’s face it: doesn’t Whitaker play the same “best friend” he’s always played? I’m not a big fan of Schreiber and in this one he looks like he’s cashing a check. He may have been.

There’s one last thing: there’s a difference between homage and building a movie based off of scenes one loves from other science fiction movies. “Blade Runner” was a big influence on this (as noted in the overhead blimps advertising, etc.). There are a few others the movie harkens back to but I can’t think of them except to say that the end was seemingly “stolen” from “Brazil” (director’s cut). If you’ve seen it and you watch the movie, you’ll know what I mean.

This is the type of movie that ends up relegated to cable where those who watch it will go, “It’s not bad.” It wasn’t overly great either but if you find yourself stuck in a snowstorm and it’s the only thing on, at least enjoy the concept.

My grade: C

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

07
Jun
10

Movie Review: The Wolfman

Werewolves of 19th century London, ahhh-oooooo…..

Starring Benecio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, and Hugo Weaving. Directed by Joe Johnston

If I were thirteen years old, this would be the awesomest werewolf movie ever made. But, I’m not and it isn’t.

The time and place: late nineteenth century England. Gwen Conliffe (Blunt) is writing a letter to her brother-in-law, Lawrence Talbot (del Toro). Her husband Ben, Lawrence’s brother, was mauled by something in the forest late one night. The police aren’t sure who or what did it and the speculation (this being post-Jack the Ripper) is that it was some sort of madman. However, giant claw marks and the fact that only half his body were recovered from a ditch suggest a “werewolf.” With no real leads and the fact that you just can’t get a “werewolf” lineup down at the station it’s all just hearsay and rumor, but everyone is pretty sure it was a werewolf.

Lawrence arrives at his boyhood home, a giant castle that he was initially sent away from. He was sent abroad to New York City and studied theater, his last production being “Hamlet.” With the murder of his brother shrouded in mystery, he plans on getting to the bottom of what really happened. He’s greeted by his father Sir John (Hopkins), a man who he doesn’t so much despise as feels detached from. Sir John has a dog as well as a servant named Singh (Art Malik). We find out later that he sent Lawrence to an asylum for a year before sending him abroad to America. If my own father did that to me I would never speak to him again.

Upon meeting Gwen again we realize the two have something between them. Yes, she’s his sister-in-law currently living on his creepy father’s residence but they have feelings for each other, or else why did she bother writing him? Not really sure on that one, but now is not the time to question story or plot.

Lawrence finds that his brother was a liaison between the gypsies and the townspeople. He heads to the camp to find out more info when suddenly it’s attacked by a fierce, malevolent creature (or, a werewolf). Shots are fired, people run around, there’s a lot of bloodletting and amputees… Going into the fog-filled forest Lawrence is attacked but saved by the main gypsy woman who knows that he’ll eventually become a werewolf. Maybe she took the Hippocratic Oath…

He’s sent back home and wakes up days later after having some intense CG-filled dreams (and one that questions how his mother had died). He had some claw marks left on his neck but other than that, he checks out alright. His father has shifty eyes and a smile that seem not to make any sense, or at least gives the idea that there’s more to what’s going on than he’s letting on.

Scotland Yard Investigator Abberline (Weaving) comes to question Lawrence but doesn’t get that much more info. It’s not so much that he suspects Lawrence but seeing as how the rest of the town despises Sir John and consider his family cursed Abberline just wants the facts.

To hit the fast-forward button and save you some cash, Lawrence is in fact a werewolf who was bitten by his father. Lawrence goes to get revenge, a giant melee ensues, the father is killed, and Gwen puts a silver bullet through his heart. The end.

This is the type of movie you show to others and say, “See? This is where Hollywood went wrong.” Having watched so many movies within 10 minutes I know where most movies go off the track. The problem with “The Wolfman,” is that, like “Transformers 2,” you’re not sure that it was on the track to begin with. Hell, after 10 minutes I wanted to go home and pop Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula” into my Blu-ray player and watch that. But, I digress.

Where did this movie go wrong? I think part of it lies in the fact that -supposedly- it was staying close to the original source material. Unfortunately movies made in 1941 are not movies made in 2010. Secondly, for a film taking place in England Hopkins, Blunt, and del Toro do NOT have any type of accent. In fact, del Toro -painfully- delivers an accent that sounds so ambiguously straight-forward that NO person talks that way. Third, Hopkins looks as if he’s channeling the spirit of Montgomery Burns (“The Simpsons”) in the way that he’s eyes constantly shift (or maybe that’s him making sure that the producers are signing his paychecks). Last, there’s a love scene so stilted I could almost hear George Lucas say, “See? The scene from ‘Episode 3′ was better than THAT!” Honestly, I can’t remember what point in the movie I stopped caring about what was going on but it just made it THAT much longer…

Blame the horrible writing (was it a direct translation?) Blame del Tor’s accent. Blame Hopkins’ character. Blame the CG effects and plastic prop-looking set design. Hell, just blame Joe Johnston.

I cannot recommend this movie. While not horrible, I wouldn’t bother watching it on cable or even as an in-flight movie. I wouldn’t even recommend downloading it illegally.

My grade: D

11
May
10

Mythology Returns to the Movies with “Clash of the Titans”

A black pegasus?

Starring Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Gemma Arterton. Directed by Louis Leterrier

NOTE: I watched the film in Real 3-D.

I was all of four years of age when the original “Clash of the Titans” was released in 1981 and like every kid who grew up in the Eighties, I’ve watched the original at least a dozen times. Not to have a “back in the day” moment, but mythology was one of those cool things that sprang up on occasion. There was only one universal book on the subject by Edith Hamilton and aside from the fact that my “gifted”/really intelligent kids program did a unit of study on it, I might not have known anything about it save for the fact that the movie production company Orion was named after the constellation named for the mythological character. I have no idea or clue if kids are interested in it nowadays.

This remake directed by Louis Leterrier (“The Incredible Hulk”) brings back that since of nostalgia for Perseus, Zeus, Athena, Io, and the myriad of characters that deep down we find fascinating. Mythology envelopes us in a time and place where incredible feats were accomplished and the gods did way more than just place dice with the universe.

Loosely following the structure of a film that played pretty loosely with actual mythology, the story opens with the constellations in the sky and explains the creation of the Kraken (which comes into play later, if you didn’t know) as well as what happened between the god brothers Zeus and Hades. After creating the Kraken (a hideous, evil creature) Zeus sent Hades to sit immortality out running the underworld (a little Christianity with your Greek mythology, folks?)

Perseus is a baby laying on his dead mother’s body inside a coffin when he’s picked up by a fisherman (Pete Postlethwaite) who brings him up as his own son. On a particular trip in his late teens Perseus (now a grown Sam Worthington) and his family watch from their boat as the tides of change have enacted against the gods and a ginormous statue of Zeus is being toppled from a cliff by soldiers. The world of men no longer needs the gods; they can make their own.

Which doesn’t bode well on Mount Olympus where Zeus looks down to see that Man has turned against him. He needs the love and worship of Man to have power and he’s quickly losing it. When his brother Hades (Fiennes) shows they make a deal to teach mankind a lesson, not knowing that Hades has bigger plans. In the meantime Zeus sends winged creatures to pick-off the soldiers and Perseus’s family drowns when their boat is capsized by the falling statue.

At Argos a ceremony is being held by the king and his wife who decry the gods and goddesses. When the queen states that her daughter Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) is better looking than the goddess Athena, Hades makes his play on the kingdom of Argos: unless the king sacrifices his daughter for his wife’s insolence to Athena, the kingdom of Argos will be destroyed in ten days. Oh, and by the way Persues, the guy they pulled from the ocean, is a demi-god. Thanks.

Which causes Perseus a lot of problems. First off he blames Zeus for the death of his family. Second, the gods aren’t exactly winning any population contests with the people. Third, he’s just a fisherman and really doesn’t want to answer to being any more than what he is (an ongoing theme in the film). Meanwhile, we find out more about the birth of Perseus. His father Acrisius (Jason Flemyng) got screwed-over by Zeus in the beginning of Man’s war against the gods when Zeus came to Earth in the form of Acrisius and made out with his wife. Acrisius finds out, Zeus flees the scene and Acrisius waits until Perseus is born before putting his wife and him into a coffin and throwing it into the ocean. The demi-god Io (Arterton) guides the coffin to the boat of a fisherman while Zeus punishes Acrisius by deforming him (he now becomes Calibos) and banishing him to be Hades’ neighbor. Speaking of, Hades hires Calibos to kill Perseus because he has big plans.

Perseus meets Draco (Mads Mikkelsen) the leader of the Argos soldiers sent to prevent the death of Andromeda by… whatever. We in the theater (and at home) know it’s the Kraken, but the characters aren’t exactly sure what’s going on or really where they’re going; for all they know they could be on a suicide mission to chuck a ring into a volcano. They pick up two travelers and a Djinn (decrepit guy who can wield ancient magic) on their way to the witches and to Medusa and finally back to Argos to save the princess and keep Argos from being obliterated by the Kraken.

It’s better than I thought it would have been. Honestly. I loved growing up watching the original and was more than cautious on seeing this one. Having picked up the original on Blu-ray I can see it through a different set of eyes and –yes- it’s not the greatest movie since the train station one by the Lumiere Brothers, but it’s good and worthy of seeing at a theater.

Leterrier’s remake parallels the original but keeps its distance. Instead of “one man making a journey” it becomes a sort of “Fellowship Against the Kraken.” In the original Perseus went through self-imposed training to become PERSEUS and save the day whereas in this version the character doesn’t want to answer “the call of destiny” opting to rebel against it either because he just wants to be a fisherman or his self-esteem really is that low. The white Pegasus was traded for a black one, and the Kraken is a verifiable sea monster with tentacles as opposed to the giant Harryhausen creation.

My main complaint on the movie is that it lacks imperative nature. At no point in the film is there a time countdown; in fact, the film feels like it took place over two or three days at most. While there is camaraderie among the rag-tag group, they’re all sure of pursuing certain death so that Perseus can become who he needs to become in order to save Argos/the Princess/the day but Perseus doesn’t believe in himself nor what he’s being expected to do. Meanwhile, those around him get killed. And at the end of it all everything is righted again but it doesn’t stop from feeling underwhelming.

And that’s a concern: that our culture has divided everything into being either super-soft touchy/feely or super-action hero incredulous; there seems to be no middle ground. This is a movie for a generation of kids who grew up on “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” antidepressants, etc. On one hand not having more anima hurts this film and keeps it from being great. On the other, Leterrier makes a case about friendship, love, worship, the gods, and becoming one’s own self, regardless of fate or destiny.

Another minor adjunct complaint: everyone in the movie seemed to know what was going on/what they had to do but ignored the audience. Maybe this is a “gutsy” move to make audiences think, or maybe Leterrier is harkening back to olden days when everything wasn’t explained to its final detail. I don’t remember what led them from one place to the next except for a clue, and not one person questioned what was going on. Maybe I’ll chalk that up to “lack of character development” and letting the characters serve the story.

Special effect fight scenes were really well done. Acting was pretty good. The filmmakers attempted to take the original and make it their own and for the most part (given the source material) they did so. As for 3-D content… I have problems with 3-D glasses. Aside from putting them over my own I have a stigmatism and it takes ten minutes for my eyes to adjust to the image and as long as the picture stays in place I’m fine. The problem with 3-D (and me watching it as well) is when quick-cut fast-paced action sequences occur; they give me a headache. If you have the same problem, you may wanna skip seeing it in 3-D.

I can recommend this as a good matinee film or you may want to opt for full-price. It’s good for a remake and I would consider seeing it again.

Watch for Bubo (the mechanical owl) to make an appearance.

My grade: B