Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Last Survivor- She said

Every once in a while, a film will come along that will make you question humanity and your role in it. “The Last Survivor” is a powerful documentary about the human spirit persevering above all obstacles. The film follow four survivors of four different genocides: Hedi from the Holocaust, Justin from The Congo, Jacqueline from Rwanda, and Adam from Darfur. Each story is different, yet the one aspect they share is that they each survived.

The documentary follows these individuals as they go about their lives after their tragedies. All four survivors work and speak about their experiences in some form. Jacqueline has spoken in front of the U.N., while Adam is a leader of Darfur refugees in Israel. Justin got the opportunity to move to America, and Hedi shares her story with performer wanting the story to be told. All four are constantly dealing with the question, “Why me? Why was I chosen to survive?” The burden they have as survivors is almost unbearable. Jacqueline shares about many times she wished she had died in the genocide because the burden of surviving is almost impossible.

This could have easily been ainstead filmmakers, Michael Pertnoy and Michael Kleinman, make this a film of hope. documentary of anger and despair and hatred, but The tenacity and spirit of these individuals is unbelievable. They have been through these unspeakable horrors, yet they find the will to move on. And instead of spewing hatred and violence towards their adversaries, they preach hope and understanding and change. They work for peace, and a world where we never have to hear about genocide again. These individuals understand the basic principle that a lot of people miss- we’re all human, therefore, we’re all connected. It doesn’t matter what you are or who you are, every life is valuable.

One of the directors, Pertnoy, was there for a Q&A, and he was asked a question on the meaning of the title. He said that was his goal; his goal and hope is that, as humans, we can say there is a “last survivor” because that means genocides will have come to an end in this world.

I cannot say enough about this film. It is beautifully shot and edited. It never lags or is weighted down by details. You care about these survivors and their stories, and you leave with the most important lesson of all…the lesson of hope and change. It’s my hope that we all can have the spirit and love that Hedi, Justin, Jaqueline, and Adam share.

Harmony and Me- He said

Harmony and Me is the typical story of a nice guy, Harmony (Justin Rice), that gets his heart broken by his ex, Jessica (Kristen Tucker), and can’t seem to let go. We have all had those friends, and maybe you have been that person at some point. The all too familiar plot serves as a way to show off the goofy characters and situations that inhabit Harmony’s life. This is the work of Texas director, Robert Byington, who shot this movie in Austin, and cited in a Q&A that the biggest influence for this movie was some of the autobiographical and weird situations that happened to him and how they affected him. It is one of more adorable and charming movies I’ve seen this festival.

The movie starts off with Harmony remembering various times in his relationship with Jessica, while his friends are all having fun around him. Even though he can’t get over her, Jessica is not the nicest of ex-girlfriends calling him all sorts of iterations of the word “loser“. The first time we see Jessica we see that she is debating how long it should take to get over a relationship. She decides that it takes at least half of the length of the relationship to get over that person, but since she knew the relationship was over a while ago she has less time. Too say the least, you are definitely not meant to empathize with her, and this scene shows the kind of humor the movie has. Harmony works in some IT company, and just like with his friends, he makes his coworkers know that his heart is broken. At certain points we go through all of his friends and family who all have advice and over-the-top personalities to go along with them. Out of all the supporting cast, I liked Natasha, the chatty and annoying neighbor. She gets some of the funniest dialogue apart from Harmony.

At one point, Harmony decides he needs to take piano lessons, and he ends up striking a great friendship with his teacher. Byington said Justin had a natural curiosity towards learning instruments, and that his learning process is basically captured on camera. It is pretty exciting to see him getting better throughout the movie. I liked that the movie used music as a source of struggle for Harmony and not just a way to look cool in front of Jessica or sell soundtracks. The movie quickly moves from scene to scene in a way that makes you feel as disjointed from reality as I imagine Harmony being. You can really feel the amount of hurt and numbness that Harmony is in, and I have to give Justin Rice a lot of credit here. Even if he is a little annoying, the director somehow makes you care for him, and by the time he sees Jessica going on a date with the office tool, Matt, you truly feel for him from his subsequent reaction . I enjoyed the fact that by the end of the movie, Harmony finally improves his life even if it happens in the most immature way. I normally don’t like romantic comedies where the protagonist changes his life around in one montage.

Overall Harmony and Me is a cute and enjoyable movie. I think that anyone that has been broken up with or has really sensitive friends should be able to enjoy this movie. The characters are so great here, as are the situations they get put in, which highlights the writing power that Mr. Byington has. I look forward to any other projects he has coming up.

Becloud- She said

Alejandro Gerber Bicecci’s “Becloud” tells the story of three childhood friends, Andres, Felipe, and Jose, and their lives in a dusty, run down corner of Mexico City. The boys were inseparable until they witnessed a tragedy that haunts them to this day. The tragedy shaped each boy differently and had a profound effect on their lives.

What’s unique about this tale is it’s not told sequentially. We’re introduced to Efren as he drives down a dusty road with a truck full of water. He has the company of a lady, and when they stop, she goes to explore a dried up lake and finds a baby with his dead mother. She adopts the child as her own and names him after Efren, but Efren wants nothing to do with the child. Fast forward to the present day where we follow 18 year olds Andres, Felipe and Jose. The story jumps randomly from one boy to another as we catch glimpses of each trying to find happiness, love, steady job, or acceptance in their lives. This part of the movie seem to set up a lot of character and exposition, and I wasn’t sure where it was going or why certain things were happening.

Then, act two begins, and we’re taken back eight years earlier when the boys were in school. We see their tight bond to one another, and as boys do, they fight over who can marry the elusive Abigail at the school carnival. The boys put on a mock sword fight to see who the victor will be. This stage of their lives is when the boys witness something they’ll never forget.

This is where Bicecci is a master story teller. All the questions I had about the characters and motives came together. I understood why they acted the way they did, why they drifted apart over the years, and why none of them could find happiness in their lives. In Spanish, the title is “Vaho” which the director described as the mist that you see when you breathe out in a cold night. Bicecci meant this title to be an allegory for the lives of the boys. The mist clouds your vision, and you can’t see what’s ahead of you, and you begin to question the meaning of your life because nothing is clear.

Bicecci has a bright future ahead of him as a film maker and storyteller. This movie reminded me of “City of God” where the pieces are mixed up, but once you figure out where they go, the end result is captivating.

Earthling- He said

Texas director, Clay Liford, is a huge sci-fi nerd, as evident in his film, Earthling. As a festival favorite with much hype, it is the tale of a history teacher, Judith, who learns she might not be what she thinks she is. I had very high hopes for this movie, giving that I love sci-fi in all of their serious and campy iterations, and this movie did not disappoint, even if it has its weak points.

The movie starts with a shot of the spore making its way towards the International Space Station that contains three astronauts. When it gets closer to the station, you can see one of the astronauts Sean (Matt Socia) being affected greatly by it. We see that they managed to get the spore inside and quarantine it, but Sean ends up being the only survivor after the spore comes inside, and he returns to earth comatose. Thanks to a pulse sent by the spore, Judith crashes her car, where she loses her 13 week old. The movie shows Judith waking up and dealing with grief and changes she’s experiencing after the crash. All of this comes to head when she meets Abby, a strange new student that has an apparently been drawn to her and was also affected by the pulse. The movie proceeds to show Judith’s unraveling quest to find out more about herself and those newcomers in her life. I had high hopes for this to be Texas’s “District 9”, and even thought it comes close, it misses on a few key points.

You can tell that Liford is a great sci-fi nerd, and that passion comes off across on the screen in the story detail and performances. The story itself is familiar but, thanks to Liford‘s writing, feels new. I was impressed by Rebbeca Spence in her performance as Judith; her desperation and pain come across fantastically. But the star of this fim is Amelia Turner as Abby in an emotive and expressive performance. Knowing more than she lets on, Abby was a great source of intrigue and frustration. She would answer every question except the ones you really wanted to know.

Here’s where the movie runs into problems. The pacing was the most frustrating aspect. It became a loop of Judith being frustrated, asking Abby something, and then Judith freaking out over what she just learned. I feel that the movie’s 115 minute run time could have been cut down. Lastly, some of the special effects were slightly goofy to the point I thought it was an homage to a B movie; however, in the context of the movie, it feels cheap.

Overall, this is the best Texas based movie (apart from Skateland ) I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. The movie is not revolutionary but well deserved of the hype it has been receiving. Director Clay Liford has talent, ambition and enough imagination to keep on making interesting films for a long time, and I am proud to tell people he is a Texan.

The Joneses- She said

Everyone knew “that” family growing up. They always seem to have the latest and greatest gadgets, clothes, and cars. Everyone knew them, and everyone wanted to be them. In Derrik Borte’s film, The Joneses, the Joneses are that family. Their quintessential life is envied by their neighborhood. The parents, Kate and Steve, have the perfect, loving marriage. Their kids, Jen and Mick, are respectable, charming, and gorgeous. However, once they’re hidden in their million dollar home, everything changes.

You see, the Joneses have a job. They’re a unit working for a lifestyle corporation. They have the latest and greatest electronics, clothes, beauty products, sports equipment, furniture…everything because they want to sell it to you. Everything they own is for sale. They ingrain themselves in the upper-class suburbanite culture and essentially “sell” these families their high-quality lifestyle. For while, sales are up for the unit. Then, like every family, either real or imaginary, real life catches up with them.

The movie is really well made, and I thought it would take most of the movie to figure out what the family’s secret was, but their job is revealed within the first 20 minutes. This gives ample time to develop the characters and their dynamic relationships with each other. Demi Moore and David Duchovny are standouts as Kate and Steve. Even though they’re there to do a job, their underlying sexual tension is ever so present and gets in the way. Kate is clearly the dominate, pants-wearing one in this family unit, and she always keeps giving Steve “tips” to help his sales. Even though she tries not to emasculate him, you can see his manhood shrink just a bit every time she talks to him, but he seems to take to it and to her.

The film is a great commentary on consumerism in suburban America. It manages to comment on today’s social and economic hardships without even mentioning the present day bad economy. These people are just trying to keep up with the Joneses without any real regards to their finances.

The concept of this movie is fascinating. The idea that they’re family units out there trying to get you to buy their lifestyle is brilliant. Usually the reason you might not buy something from a normal salesperson is either they’re too pushy or not personable. What a great idea to be submerged in a culture where your customers get to know you, trust you, and hang on your every word.

My only problem with the film is the story wraps up a little too neat and lovely-dovey for my taste. Overall though, the movie brings up some interesting conversation topics of consumerism and suburban life. See this with your intellectual friends and have interesting, debate-filled conversations afterwards.

Animation Shorts- He said

The animated shorts competition is something I looked forward to given my almost ridiculous affinity for cartoons. I walked away completely amazed at the great things being done in this field, especially with the fact that there was only one CGI short. The shorts programming director came out and told us she can picked these for the competition, and I must say I like her taste.

One of my favorites were ‘Land of the Heads“, a French short by Cédric Louis and Claude Barnes. This was a stop motion in the style of Henrys Selick. What sets it apart is the hilarious and graphic violence that ensues. It tells the tale of a decapitated wife who constantly pesters her monster husband for a new head. He has to go with an annoying crow to the village and find her a head, except he starts to get fed up. The conclusion is hilarious and yet really creepy at the same time.

“The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9!” is by American director, Jake Armstrong, who takes the style of the mid-90’s Nickelodeon cartoons, that I loved, and translates them into a super gory sci-fi story of a bounty hunter out for the head of 9-eyed creature. When he arrives, things are not as they seem. The creature is an overtly friendly goofball and seemingly indestructible.

“Runaway” has to be my favorite short of the bunch. Directed by Canadian director, Cordell Barker, it is the ridiculous and funny story of a train filled with over the top characters and a conductor that completely neglects his duty. The train ride gets a bit bumpy after they hit a cow in the tracks who, while unharmed, causes the train to go off course. One ridiculous obstacle after the another finds the trains population getting smaller and smaller until the climax.

Finally, German short “The Wisdom Teeth” by director Don Herzfeldt, which shows you why it’s not a good idea to have your friend pull your stitches from your mouth.

Others in the competitions which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much were “You Cried Me” by Tom Deslongchamp, is a crudely drawn and stylistically messy short about two kids playing in the wrong graveyard, disturbing something that they shouldn’t have, and now are on the run. Finally, “Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No” is the retelling of Dock Ellis’s experience with LSD, and his attempt at playing baseball. Even though, the narration was amazing and was aided by the visuals, the problem was the animation felt a lot like a bad, second-tier Adult Swim show.

Once again, this block of cartoons was a joy to watch, and I can’t wait to see what these directors do next. It does feel great to know that computer graphics don’t necessarily have to be the source of cartoons. The different styles and ways of animating things was very inspiring, and it’s great to see it used as a different way of storytelling and not just for making kid’s movies.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Waking Sleeping Beauty- She said

As a child of the early 90s, my memories are full of Disney. I remember seeing the animated cartoons on the big screen, which were some of the first movies I saw in theaters, and being absolutely captivated by their stories. After all the movies, I always wanted the soundtrack, backpack and coloring books right away! I never wanted to leave those fairytale worlds. To many of us, Disney has always been an animation giant. However, as the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty shows, the road toward their golden era of animation was long, arduous and bumpy.

In the late 70s, there was this dividing line within the animators at Disney. You had the classic animators who were about to retire, then there were fresh faced kids full of bright ideas. Even though they had the talent, Disney was not thought of for their animation. The released an animated movie about every four years. This led to many, many fails at the box office culminating with the flop of The Black Cauldron. Throughout this time, there was constant power struggle of egos from the head honchos: Roy Disney, Jeff Kratzenberg, Mike Eisner, and Frank Wells. Through disagreements, power shifts, failed experiments and outside forces an unbelievable chain of events happened which led us to some of the greatest and most successful animated movies ever made.

This documentary by Don Hahn is phenomenal. The archive footage and videos used give an insight to the lives and minds from the animators all the way up to Roy Disney. Also, there are A LOT of people involved during this era, and Hahn does an amazing job of keeping the names of who we’re seeing or who’s talking on the screen, which makes this movie very user friendly. It also shows some very hilarious archival caricatures of certain meetings and bosses that add to the playfulness of the animators.

I was scared that this documentary might tarnish notions I had about the Disney studios, but it just reinforced the fact that Disney at the end of the day is still just another business. Not everyone is going to agree or get along, but they still have to produce a product.

This is my favorite movie I’ve seen at the Dallas International Film Festival thus far. Now, I am a little biased because I do love Disney, but it was fascinating to see a back story from a company that had such a profound impact on my generation. If you’ve ever had any interest in Disney, go see this film. (Also, they mention this little start-up company towards the end…called Pixar. Maybe a Pixar documentary could be in the works about changing the face of animation?)

Skateland- He said

It seems that culturally speaking, the time is hot to strike the iron that are the “coming of age” movies. Sure they have been around for a while, but it seems that this decade’s young people are as hopelessly lost and confused about life. Films like Garden State, SLC Punk, and most recently Adventureland are obvious examples of movies similar to Skateland. This is the work director Anthony Burns; he wrote this script with Brandon Freeman, and it seems to be slightly autobiographical events in their lives. It stars Shiloh Fernandez as Ritchie, Ashley Greene as Michelle, and Heath Freeman as Brent. This movie follows Ritchie as his life changes beginning with his job Skateland. He is consistently plagued with the fact that he has no clue on what to do by those near him.

The movie starts of with Ritchie, Michelle, and her older brother Brent goes to a party thrown by their friend Taylor. You get a good sense of the kind of people that they are through their interactions, and you can immediately start caring for them. We learn that Ritchie is a writer who has no ambition to leave his comfortable town. The movie really gets going with Teddy, Ritchie’s boss, telling him about Skateland’s sale. This is one of many events that will test his resolve. A lot of the time he spends doing nothing, or drinking beers with Taylor and Brent, or driving around. Michelle and his sister keep pushing Ritchie to go away and make something of himself. Speaking of his family, Brett Cullen, who plays his father David, did superb as a father that is going through a rough patch, but genuinely loves the kids, and their scenes are some of the best.

As a small town 1980’s tale in Texas, the comparison to Dazed and Confused will arise. Don’t make this mistake; one is a straight up comedy, whereas this is a drama with funny parts thrown in. The only common thread is both of these movies have a great attention to detail to recreate the feel of the decade. I felt immediately immersed in this decade as soon as the movie started. As someone noted in the Q&A, they did a great job as well o recreating the constant noise of animals that inhabit East Texas. The movie is also beautifully shot; the way certain scenes were filmed and edited, makes me want to rewatch the movie to experience it again. The movie goes into dangerous cliché territory in certain situations towards the second half of the film, but it never gets there, instead it creates tension that makes you care for these characters. I know that for one scene in particular my heart was pounding for their situation that to me is the sign of a great movie.

Overall Skateland might feel like familiar territory to some, but it is a well written and beautifully shot movie that deserves all the hype that is has been getting. Unfortunately there were only two screenings for it this weekend, but I’m confident it will be released soon. Well worth a premiere night admission ticket.

Start a Band- She said

Every relationship has that point that it reaches when things are just kinda boring. Life is predictable and mundane, so you decide to spice it up a little. Some couples take salsa dancing classes or cake decorating classes.
In Daniel Laabs’ short film “Start a Band,” our couple, Charlie (Michael Magnus) and Beca (Rachel Rolader), decide to, well, start a band. It’s really Beca’s idea because it’s usually the female part of a relationship that suggests bonding ideas.
There’s one problem: Charlie can play the snare drum, but Beca can play the tambourine or triangle. Not the real makings of a band. However, Charlie takes some time and teaches Beca a chord on the piano. She gets so excited when they put the drum and piano together; it’s a really sweet moment. The short culminates in a party with friends, where another couple shows off their salsa dancing skills, sorta. And of course, this gives Beca a brilliant idea: “Let’s show off our band!”
Laab’s short is quirky, funny, and sweet. The characters are well-drawn, memorable and personable, and that’s a feet considering the short is only three minutes. Beca and Charlie symbolize every relationship. I’m pretty sure almost every girl can relate to Beca on some level. She just wants them to do something fun together; what’s so wrong about that? And I’m sure every guy can relate to Charlie. He’s just wants to do what he wants, but he’ll concede and amuse her because that’s what guys do.
Oh, the lengths that one will go to for the one they love.

Cracks- She said

No matter what story you tell, high school girls are all the same. They have their cliques, routines, and roles. When a new mysterious outsider arrives, one of two things can happen: she’s either immediately accepted or rejected. In Jordan Scott’s “Cracks,” such a girl arrives.

The movie is set in 1934 England at secluded boarding school in rural England. There is structure, order, and discipline. The girls learn about diving, gymnastics, proper letter writing, and flower arrangements. They are arranged into “teams”, or families, and there’s a leader and a teacher for each. Di’s (Juno Temple) team is a well oiled machine. Each girl knows their role and what to play.
They are mentored by Eva Green’s Miss G, who’s a feminist before her time. She preaches to the girls of passion for life and travel, and the girls hang on her every word. She wakes them in middle of the night to have midnight swims and lets Di read books not allowed at school.

Then, Fiamma shows up. Fiamma is from an aristocratic family in Spain. From her first impression, the team and Miss G knows that Fiamma is well beyond her years. She knows who she is as a person while the other girls are still figuring out themselves. This intrigues Miss G, and she becomes obsessed with making Fiamma her new favorite. As Miss G tries to pursue the relationship, Fiamma begins to expose the cracks within Miss G’s “teachings” and thus breaking her.

Jordan Scott does a remarkable job telling this classic high school tale in her debut film. Each girl has her own story, and we can see every motivation behind the girls’ decisions. It would be real easy to write off this story as “Mean Girls” set at a boarding school, but Scott doesn’t let us off that easy. Uneasy questions begin to arise like, “Why does Miss G favor Fiamma?” and “Are Miss G’s stories of travel true or a fantasy she was never able to live herself?”.
Eva Green is phenomenal as Miss G. Her performance is sub On the surface, she’s the type of teacher every girl dreams of. Someone who believes in you and wants you to not set limits for yourself and go for your dreams. However, once one little crack is exposed, your inspiration could be smashed.
Scott’s film is tense, dark, and beautifully shot. Her film truly captivates the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl, and the power of influence.

Nosotros, los pobres (We the Poor)- He Said

Context is a word that should be prevalent when studying and watching films. It can change your perspective on a film you might have liked less. I kept the word in mind while watching “Nosotros, los pobres (We, The Poor),” considered one of the masterpieces of the Mexican Golden Era of Cinema. The pairing of director Ismael Rodriguez and Mexican film and music legend Pedro Infante make a formidable duo behind the scenes. This movie tells the tale of a poor carpenter Pepe, or “El Toro,” trying to survive in a poor neighborhood filled with colorful characters. The movie is shot in beautiful black and white with various musical numbers included.

“We The Poor” starts of with two children reading what seems to be the book adaptation of the movie. What was interesting was that Mr. Rodriguez decided to put a note in the “book” where he tells the audience in advance that this is a vulgar, shocking and possibly too violent movie due to Rodriguez wanting to create an accurate portrayal of the slum life. I was not so sure this would be necessary but thinking that this movie was released in 1947 it made sense, and in some scenes I was even shocked.

The movie is very deliberately paced, running at 128 minutes although not a lot of things are necessarily happening. There is a wide cast that needs to be introduced, along background stories and exposition it makes for a slow first half. Here is where context is important, considering that the movies of the times were made differently, one cold no be faulted in thinking that is a very slow moving, but here it works well. Given that Mr. Infante was a famous singer the movie does have a few musical numbers that are there not always to move the plot but to show his singing skills.

The acting in the movie felt very true to the times, from the way people spoke and enunciated things, to the relationships; it did not feel like some overtly romanticized version of the time period. Praise goes to Pedro Infante, and Evita Muñoz as Chachita, Pedro “El Toro’s” daughter. Muñoz particularly made me take notice, but due to the over-dramatic nature of her character moments, which could have been more emotionally devastating or moving, get muted. Mr. Infante oozes with charm for the entire movie, playing a very emphatic character stuck in horrible situations. You truly root for him the entire time. I mentioned the movie being shot in black and white, and it truly does add more ambiance to a deceptively dark story, making the absence of color one of the movie’s better aspects.

In the end, “We The Poor” is a great example of a way of making movies that is not common nowadays, it should be viewed and studied by movie lovers, not only as a foreign film but of a style long gone.

Carried Away- He Said

Carried Away is the directorial debut from writer and Ft. Worth native Tom Huckabee. It is a charming if not a predictable movie about a family going through troubles. I feel that this threads familiar territory and even if the plot doesn’t hold up well, the relationship between Ed Franklin (Gabriel Horn) and his Granny (Juli Erickson) holds the movie together. The movie starts with Granny escaping through a field with a walker; we later learn it is one of her many attempts to leave her nursing home. This establishes the theme of escapism, which is one of the common threads that hold the characters together.

The movie quickly reveals the quirks of each character. The father Rex (Mark Walters) is distant, the mother Jean (Morgana Shaw) is a pushover, Davy (Tyler Cory) the youngest is going to trial for selling drugs, while older brother Steve (Bryan Massey) is an all around jerk. Ed is visiting the family for the holidays, and after witnessing what he considers atrocities being committed against Granny, he decides to break her out of the nursing home as well and takes her with him to Los Angeles. Frankly, this part of the movie feels rushed, mostly used as a plot device to get them to go on their adventures. If you have seen a quirky indie film with family issues, then you have seen most of this movie. Where this movie shines is in its characters’ relationships with one another.

I found the way that Granny and Ed got along very moving and endearing; you can tell he truly cares for her and vice versa. I have to say that Granny was way too reminiscent of Grandpa Edwin from Little Miss Sunshine. They’re both outspoken seniors who probably won’t change. Edwin was a druggie; Granny is a racist. And I think this is where the enjoyment of the movie went downhill for me, due to many similarities to the aforementioned movie.

Mr. Huckabee takes full advantage of the roadtrip scenario by shooting some of the most beautiful terrain footage of Texas and the Southwest I have ever seen on film. As they get closer to California the terrain becomes more vast This is when Ed finds Sarah, an old flame he never quite forgot about, who lives in a desert community, and I really enjoyed the believability of the relationship. There is some true love here, even if it was never meant to be. It is during this part of the movie where Ed comes to realize the bigger truth behind his motive with Granny.

Unfortunately, the last part of the movie slightly ruins the relationships between the characters in a rather cliché way. It was truly a shame to see the movie wrap up the way it did. While I did not enjoy the movie too much due to the almost overtly quirky situations that the characters get into. I do have great hope for Mr. Huckabee. He writes and directs great characters that feel truly different from other movies even if the plot does not.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Clash of the Titans

Directed by: Louis Leterrier

Written by: Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi

Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Raph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton

Synopsis: A young fisherman must rise up and avenge his family against the Greek god Hades. He must go on a quest to find the way to to defeat him.

Clash of the Titans- He said

So remakes are all the rage now, and 3D is all the rage now. Combine the two and what do you have?! A really boring and horrible movie. That’s right cats and kittens, I’m talking about the 3rd movie in the “Sam Worthington: World Savior Saga“, Clash of the Titans. I confess I don’t feel fully informed, due to the fact that I have not seen the original movie. But unlike a few other remakes, I’m not sure that you NEED to watch the original, in order to like or even “appreciate” this movie. Sam Worthington stars as Perseus, with a supporting cast rounded out by the underused Liam Neeson as Zeus and my boy Raph Fiennes as Voldemort’s emo-twin Hades.

Like I said before, I’m not familiar with the original except the groundbreaking visuals by Ray Harryhausen, and that Perseus is on a quest to kill Medusa in order to save Princess Andromeda from the Kraken (From IMDB’s Clash Of The Titans Synopsis). Having read this, the remake makes even less sense. It starts with baby Perseus being found in a coffin floating underwater. A fisherman and his wife raise him. Eventually, Hades kills his family for no apparent reason than for a plot point. From here we learn that the Gods are not pleased with humans for their freethinking heretical ways. Apparently in this world need Love Power in order to be God-like. Hades kick starts the chain of events of this movie by having Zeus allow him to cause chaos among the humans with the Kraken, so they will pray to him once again for salvation. After this, it becomes the most paint by the numbers, “Hero’s Journey” tale. I have been saying for months that a lot of movies coming out nowadays are all different iterations of a tired old story (Avatar, Shutter Island, even recently How To Train Your Dragon) but that doesn’t matter to me, as long as the way the story is told is a fresh take. But no, they decided to have everyone and everything as a cliché. The team Perseus takes in his grand quest is composed of young inexperienced guys that look like Jared Leto (but are not Jared Leto), the Old Scruffy Guy, the Comic Relief Duo, and the Guy That Doesn’t Like The Hero But Probably Will Towards The End. I know you’ve seen them all before, but this time they just have sandals and swords.

Given the little that I know of the first movie, I am interested to know why the chose to make Andromeda a side character, instead of the main romantic interested. This role fell to Gemma Arterton as Io, a beautiful woman cursed with immortality that inexplicably helps Perseus through his quest. This chemistry didn’t work at all; I think drunk strangers have better chemistry than this. Like I said before, the Gods are very underused in that they feel inconsistent in their behavior, especially Zeus in regards to Perseus. One minute he could care less if he lives or dies and then the next time we see him, he is hooking Perseus up with some sweet God weapons.

Let’s talk visuals; the original Clash of The Titans made its mark by having groundbreaking visuals thanks to one Ray Harryhousen, and from what Jonesy tells me this movie looks campy and cheesy in a good way. You would think that with a visual update and an identical story it would be a great idea. Regardless, thanks to the horrible, and I mean horrible 3D upgrade that the movie received in post production, I am baffled by the low quality. I’m slightly hoping Cinematical’s article about the movie isn’t correct in a way. To condense the article, it says that because of how bad the 3D is plus the overall lacking CG creatures, they managed to make a completely unintentionally campy experience. I’m not sure if I agree because the “campiness” is not done intentional, and it’s not like the visuals were groundbreaking for their time either. The 3D ruins any depth that it was trying to create; it truly looks like pieces of paper stacked on top of each other for no real reason. What’s worse is that they blow their visual load in the trailer by showing off the fearsome Kraken in the trailer. That’s as good as it gets, folks. I know I haven’t talked much about the plot, and I would love to, but there simply isn’t one, this compares to Year One where it seemed that the movie was a set piece with a joke, transition, and repeat. It’s very much the same way here, except you replace the joke with a really extreme mythical creature battle.

Now you’re thinking that maybe I am being too critical and negative, but I have to tell you that I am thinking of this movie in terms of my friends that might like more actions movies than me. I say those people will be most bored because they have seen this movie way more times than I have. It’s boring, visually ridiculous, and does nothing for me. Please save your money, do not watch this movie, but if you have to, please do not watch it in 3D. Go see How To Train Your Dragon.

Clash of the Titans- She said

It’s been years since I’ve seen the original Clash of the Titans. I think I saw it in high school when my class studied the mythology. I remember the movie being very campy but very fun. It’s not the greatest movie, but I really enjoyed it. Now, I am all about revamping/modernizing movies if it’s done correctly. I mean you have a great mythology to build from-the Greek gods were the ancient form of our modern-day soap operas. There’s betrayal, love, lust, revenge, family secrets and murder. Take those stories and add modern-day CGI technology and a decent cast and this movie should have been a win-win for all. Oh, but it wasn’t.

The first thing that I thought when the movie was over was, “Wow, it must really be late”… it hadn’t even been two hours. The movie was too long at certain points and sped through other points. I can forgive the simple plot of a single-man-wanting-revenge-against-the-Gods-story because that really can have some interesting elements. However, the story becomes convoluted with sterotype characters and plot cliches. I didn’t care about the human characters at all. In fact, other than Sam Worthington’s character, Perseus, I cannot remember or even cared the other soldiers.

The strongest aspect the movie has is Aslan and Voldemort, I mean Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as Zeus and Hades. Their scenes together are powerful and show the only hint of any type of character within the film. I was only sad there wasn’t more scenes with them together. Also, in the original film, there were a lot more scenes with ALL the Gods, like Zeus’s wife Hera. Here, they’re in one scene and sort of talk and mumble, but they’re used as decorations standing in a blinding light, so you can’t really make out their faces.  Also, I remember some of Greek mythology from school, and I'm pretty sure that Hades had nothing to do with Perseus.  Also, the narrorator at the beginning of the movie mentioned Posideon, yet he never appears in the movie. 

And this movie proves once again why the 3D craze needs to die down. This film was converted to 3D in post-production, and you can tell. It looks cheesy and hokey, but not in the campy-fun-80s way. Some of the scenes are diluted and messy and complete distracts from the movie.  I could tell where they rushed the process of converting the scenes, and it looked ridiculous. I would have rather seen the movie in 2D because the 3D honestly took me out of the movie.

I hope that this movie doesn’t do well. I know that’s mean, but if it is successful, then that’s another reason that studios will rush their films to be converted into 3D. I really wanted Titans to be better than it was. It had some things going for it like the mythology and parts of the cast, but somehow all that got lost in the script and 3D craze. I think that they should make a sequel with just Neeson and Finnes…now I’d see that movie.