Posts Tagged ‘sam worthington

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

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30
Dec
09

Movie Review: Avatar

A little “Aliens,” a whole lotta “Dances With Wolves.”

Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, and Stephen Lang. Directed by James Cameron.

NOTE: I viewed the movie in IMAX 3-D. Oh yeah.

“Avatar” is here, and it’s a benchmark in filmmaking. Maybe not the best benchmark, but it’s important just the same.

I had reservations about seeing the film. While I am a fan of a good chunk of the Cameron catalog (“Aliens,” “The Abyss,” “Terminator 1&2,” “True Lies”) “Titanic” left a bad reaction to the world of film. Yes, the film made serious BANK and still sold more tickets than last year’s uber-blockbuster, “The Dark Knight” and yes, the recreation of the “Titanic” as well as its effects was incredible. The big problem was that the script itself (girl marrying for money meets guy from wrong side of tracks and falls in love with him on a doomed ocean voyage) was so formulaic (read: bad) that it might as well have been culled from a Final Draft template. For all I know, it probably was.

That was part of the problem facing James Cameron as he released his first feature film in 12 years. While Cameron is an incredibly gifted technical director, his screenplays leave something to be desired. Maybe “The Abyss” didn’t need much of one, and “Terminator 2” was the first “Terminator” script extended, but “Aliens” and “True Lies” had reasonably good ones. “Titanic” brought forth the idea that Cameron may be foregoing good storytelling for special effects. “Avatar” was Cameron’s chance to redeem himself as a storyteller/filmmaker.

So, is it everything and a bag of chips? On the technical side “Avatar” is not only the bag of chips, but the chip factory. On the story end, it’s slightly better than “Titanic” but not without its faults.

Speaking of, the story goes like this: Corporal Jack Sully (Sam Worthington) is a disabled Marine; his legs don’t work. His twin brother, who happens to have earned a PhD, was recently killed. Sully is given an opportunity for a change in scenery: the planet Pandora.

Sully gets to the planet and is immediately greeted as “meals on wheels”: he has to use a wheelchair to get around. He meets Pandora lab researcher Norm Spellman (Joel Moore) who shows him to his current assignment: the Avatar project. Using a hybrid combination of Na’vi (12-foot tall indigenous blue people of the planet) and human DNA, the “Avatars” are used for diplomacy because the Na’vi people refuse to speak with humans. Fancy that.

Norm then introduces him to Dr. Max Patel (Dileep Rao) and Dr. Grace Augustine (Weaver). Augustine is pissed-off about the growing hostility between the humans and Na’vi, the fact that her research funding is strained, and that one of her scientists is being replaced by his twin brother; a simpleton self-proclaimed “Jarhead.” She confronts Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi playing mini-putt and channeling Peter Boyle’s character from “Outland”) who tells her that the reason the entire operation is happening at all is because mineral rock located under the Na’vi homeland tree is worth serious BANK (again, “Outland” anyone?). They allow her to do her research because genocide looks bad on the Corporation and that she needs to put up with the new recruit.

Meanwhile, Corporal Sully goes to check-in with Marine Command. Specifically, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Lang). Quaritch is your hard-ass, war-hardened commander with facial scarring who proclaims that going to Hell would be a vacation compared to their stay on Pandora. He secretly speaks with Sully and promises that if Sully can get him some intel, then he can get Sully’s legs restored.

Sully is loaded into what the “Avatar” interface system, which looks like a giant tanning bed with gel-filled padding and a wire “body” cage. Instantly his mind is “transferred” into his avatar and he’s up and gone. He can run again, climb again, swing, jump again, slide again… he’s got legs again and it’s great. Grace and Norm have avatars as well When he wanders off he makes a stupid movie, jeopardizes the people he’s with, and winds up alone to fend for himself.

He attracts a group of “wild dogs” and is saved by Na’vi native Neytiti (Zoe Saldana). While the reasons she saves him are unclear, she tells him to get back to where he once belonged. He follows her and upon being covered in special “seeds” that float around inside the home tree, she brings him to her folks.

Lucky for him her father Eytukan (Wes Studi) is the Chief of their Na’vi clan and his wife/her mother Moat (CCH Pounder) is the psychic spiritualist. In an act of “brainless wonder” he tries introducing himself and they find he’s a “warrior” and which, unbelievably, leads to them deciding to bring him into the clan, teach him their ways, etc. (see also: “A Man Called Horse,” “Dances With Wolves,” and every-other movie where the “civilized ignorant” must go through tribal initiation in order to find his own humanity and get a better grasp of mankind before the eventual disaster that looms on the horizon approaches).

Sully returns to the main base where all sides applaud him for getting initiated into the Na’vi, having gotten farther than anyone previously. The Corporation and the Corps eye him as an asset for intel they had previously not been able to get. This affords Augustine and her team money and opportunities. Selfridge gives Sully an ultimatum: get the natives out of the tree within three months or the Corporation will bulldoze over it.

Sully is required to video after each avatar session and the longer he stays an avatar, the more he wants to be one of the Na’vi. He, along with Augustine and Company, learns that on Pandora everything is interconnected. His name in Na’vi means “moron” but he gainfully receives their attention and appreciation, finally becoming like them. It’s only when the three months are up and he realizes what he’s done that the shit hits the fan and he must fight against the Corporation and the Corps in order to do the right thing and win back the respect of the Na’vi.

Let me talk for a second about how the film succeeded: technically, the movie is f’n incredible. It’s one thing for advertisers to say, “You’ve never seen a movie like this!” and it’s another for the movie to BE that way. Quite literally, you have never seen a movie like this. The colors and the attention to minute detail (reflections on glass, seeing through objects, etc.) and in a 3-D environment make for an incredible watch. This movie was made for IMAX 3-D, and it utilizes as much of it as it can. I cannot state enough how visually cool it is. One of my favorite things was the projected holographic display monitors. I’m tech-geek like that…

Moreso than a lot of movies of this year, this one invokes multiple emotional responses. Heart-pounding action sequences and breath-taking effects are literally that. At moments you can be wowed, saddened, or even cheer for the eventual comeback of the Na’vi people. Some moments are flat, while others are incredibly in-depth. This is filmmaking that raises the bar, and filmmakers (and ones standing in the wings) should take notice and learn).

To be fair, I also have to mention where the movie failed me and that lies primarily in the story. The opening setup worked out well enough but the characters given dialog that, for the most part, felt left-over from “Aliens.” And yes, from a farther-away viewpoint the plot does sound like “Fern Gully.” When the film relies on formula conventions, such as the tribal chief accepting Sully because he is a “warrior” and because of his daughter… it was hard to forgive it for that and it took about an hour to rebuild my believability in the film. Just as the moment of Redemption occurs, there’s another big snafu: the ultimate battle between Quaritch and Sully.

One of the most difficult scenes/parts of this formula is that battle. It has to be believable. It has to be warranted. You’ve seen it dozens of times before and it’s pretty much a convention of filmmaking. In my lifetime Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader would be the first instance I know and remember. Then there’s Biff Tannen versus Marty McFly (or George) in “Back to the Future.” Sometimes, it doesn’t come off so well; I love the film “Dark City,” but the face-off between Mr. Book and John Murdoch didn’t work for me (it has since gotten better with the Director’s Cut). In “Avatar,” Quaritch uses one of the robotic mechs (like the robots in Mechwarrior) and uses a rifle, as well as an overly-large Rambo knife, to kill Sully and his avatar. My suspension of disbelief on this one got shot to hell.

So, why watch this movie? It’s colorful, innovative, breath-taking, and innovative with heart-pounding action sequences and incredible attention to detail. The script/story isn’t perfect (very few are) but when it works, it works well. The general public should see it because there’s not another movie like it (sorry Pixar) and overall it’s good. Filmmakers should watch it to see what can be done with 3-D, and the fact that Cameron raised the bar on how to tell a story (how to tell, not necessarily what the story was about). Writers should see it to get an idea on how to construct a world (and be jealous of Cameron’s visuals).

My grade: B+/A- (technical alone was an A+, but it lost points for story)

19
May
09

Movie Review: Terminator Salvation

terminator_salvation

 

The future is bleak.

Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin, and Michael Ironside. Directed by McG

In the year 2003 a convict sentenced to death via poison signs a release for his body to be used for medical purposes. His name is Marcus Wright (Worthington) and this is a plot point.

Fast-forward to 2018. The world is friggin’ bleak. John Connor (Bale) is a member of the Resistance who answers to the high command (Michael Ironside and company going up and down the California coast in a submarine). His wife (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a doctor, pregnant with his baby. The Resistance itself are scattered cells dotting the post-nuclear SoCal wasteland while Skynet, the evil robot conglomerate, controls the San Fran/Bay area.

Skynet has been working on ever elaborate ways to destroy mankind. There’s a gigantic robot that can hunt down and pick up humans as if it were King Kong, Harvesters which “cattle herd” humans into cargo bays and drop them off at Skynet Central, robot motorbikes, flying “seek and report” scouts (reminiscent of “They Live”), and ones that reside in water (looking like Doc Oc’s arms from “Spider-Man 2”) Even with all of its technological achievements, Skynet has a problem with infiltrating the Resistance.

John Connor is sent on a mission. What he finds is that Skynet has been harvesting humans for… something. He ends up being the only survivor after the control room they enter self-destructs. Connor walks back to a pick-up point. Out from the ashes rises… Marcus Wright. Wright doesn’t know where or when he is, he just needs to head north for some reason.

Connor dangerously meets with Resistance command and finds that Skynet has a secret plot to eliminate him, the entire central command, and Kyle Reese. Using the mythos already set forth in previous “Terminator” flicks we, and John, know that if Kyle Reese dies in the present then John is never born and Skynet wins by default. John must find Kyle at all costs.

Marcus lumbers around and reaches what’s left of L.A. where he meets Kyle Reese (Yelchin) and a young girl named Star. Marcus gets a quick update on the “man vs. machine” world he’s stepped into and their off to find John Connor and the rest of the Resistance. Along the way Reese and Star are captured but Marcus is able to help out and buddy up with Resistance fighter Blair. The two travel to the base.

An altercation while going through the metal minefield surrounding the base leads the group to realize what’s going on: Skynet is abducting humans to use to create life-like “Terminators.” Marcus is one but the problem is he doesn’t know it. After an escape Connor faces Wright and makes a deal: Wright has to find Kyle Reese. Meanwhile the high command is demanding a full attack on Skynet (which would destroy all humans captured). John decides to ignore the orders and go after Wright and Reese.

Yes, it’s a little revisionist; I’m not exactly sure how Marcus escaped the 1997 Judgment Day only to end up in the executioner’s chair in 2003 and upon waking in the future NOT knowing about it. Or why John continues to listen to cassette tapes his mother made (Linda Hamilton’s voice makes a cameo) when he probably should know more about Terminators and Skynet than his mother ever did. Then again these are just logic points only made by geeks like me.

What works is that there is substance, nay a story, in this movie. McG, whose previous movies include “Charlie’s Angels,” and “We Are Marshall,” wraps the story in a white-washed world where the colors are muted, if not absent, and the only real shades are light, dark, and gray. It may have been because the WB wants to churn out darker fare (see also: “The Dark Knight”) but whatever the true motives it makes “Salvation” has a look and feel of desolation and dread which works better for the world of “Terminator” as opposed to say what a director like Michael Bay would do.

How does it compare with the others? Barring “T3” (because I never bothered to watch it), I would say it’s as good as “T2” but slightly less fun. Then again it’s a post-apocalyptic world and it’s not supposed to be. McG does give nods to the previous films: there’s the Polaroid pic of Sarah Connor, John hacks into a Skynet security door, a Skynet motorbike tears down the road looking for Connor while Guns ‘n Roses’ “You Could Be Mine” is playing on a radio, there’s a return to the gas station that was at the end of the first “Terminator” which is now all but a decrepit shack, and “I’ll be back,” is said at some point.

Should you go see this film? If you’re a “Terminator” fan, this movie is well worth the wait. If you’re a scifi geek/nerd/buff and enjoy movies like “Blade Runner,” this is worth your time as well.

Speaking of “Blade Runner,” McG reportedly had the cast read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy (which has been adapted as a movie starring Viggo Mortenson) and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick (which became “Blade Runner”) so that they could “absorb” the dystopia he wanted portrayed. There is a scene in “Salvation” where San Fran looks a lot like L.A. from “Blade Runner…”

While walking out after the movie had finished a couple walking in front of me were commenting about the T-800 featured in the movie. “Isn’t it great that he…”

Guess you’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

My grade: A

P.S. Before the movie they previewed the trailer for the new “Sherlock Holmes” movie with Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams, directed by Guy Ritchie. It looks cool.

Here’s the new “Sherlock Holmes” trailer: