Monday, April 5, 2010

4 Reviews: Clash of the Titans, 1408, Zombies of Mass Destruction AND... Atropia???

Clash of the Titans (remake)

Sam Worthington headlines Clash of the Titans, a remake of the original 80’s fantasy feature that many people consider a classic in the genre. It’s a theatrical adaptation of Greek Mythology and the story of Perseus, a son of Zeus. Using several gifts from the gods, the young man sets out to slay the Gorgon Medusa and win the hand of Andromeda. The original took several liberties with the story, but yet managed to keep hold to several key factors in the myth. For those of you curious, I suggest you use this wonderful on-line medium to Wikepedia the mythology or do some research of your own… it would probably be far more research than the writers of the “remake” script ever attempted. The story is only marginally similar to the Mythology and then only somewhat less disjointed from the original film. Worthington is quickly proving himself as a magnetic leading man for action films, but much of the film tends to rely more on the Captain of the Guard in order to supply us with an identifiable character while the story continues to introduce a variety of characters who lend their support to Perseus.

The film moves at an exciting pace and tells a good story about a young man coming to grips with his dual nature and the legacy of his bloodline. He has no wish to be a hero or a son of Zeus, preferring the solace of a simple life as a fisherman. Unfortunately, the gods are upset with the world of man because they are no longer worshipped and adored, while the world of men have grown resentful of the power and prestige of the Gods. Events spiral out of his control, and Perseus is forced to take up a mantle in order to defend the city of Joppa from the ravages of the Kraken. Alternatively, the Princess Andromeda may also sacrifice herself to the beast in order to spare her city and her people. These events are being masterminded by Hades, whose desires are fueled by revenge against his brother Zeus for trapping him within the damned earth and presiding over the dead souls that enter Tartarus. Look, I’m trying to keep with the topic at hand and discuss the story but it leaps and flips from one point to another at various stages with the introduction of several characters and the rise of one threat after another. Kalibos emerges as a pawn for Hades, given a glutton of powers to stand in the way of Perseus, and yappity yapyapyap… I think you get the point.

In many places, the film manages to entertain and excite with a number of battle scenes and several monsters that crash and bang across the screen. Perseus’ battle with the giant Scorpions is the stuff of fantastic movie making, with a number of terrific stunts and creeping tensions as the creatures rise from the sands of a strange desert. His confrontation of the three fate witches leaves no room for complaint. His battle with the Kraken itself is absolutely fantastic, with an additional obstacle of three harpies who attempt to steal the Medusa’s head from our hero before he can complete his task. The threat of the gods is ever present in the form of an obsessive street preacher whose devotion to Hades is only matched by his addiction to crack as he screams and blubbers his way from one scene to the next. Unlike the original film, we are also given time to build a relationship with those who travel alongside Perseus so that their various sacrifices hold deeper meaning when they take place. The film is, ultimately, a very good adventure film with some good acting and a decent amount of direction.

Where the film goes wrong, however… it REALLY goes wrong. In what I can only assume was another “robot Spider” moment in production meetings, Perseus is joined in his quest by one of the Djinn… ancient sorcerers bound and imprisoned by Solomon in the Old Testament with a fair amount of mythology surrounding their existence to begin with. Nowhere in the Myth of Perseus, but someone really REALLY wanted to film some Djinn and I suppose this is the movie where they managed to get their keen idea thrown in. Another epic failure was in execution of the quest through Medusa’s lair. It was great action, but ultimately failed to build any real suspense or drama with regards to the gaze. Additionally, the decision to film Medusa as 100% CGI didn’t really work because she just wasn’t believable in her facial reactions. Actually, she seemed very plain-jane and unthreatening in anyway. The decision to portray Andromeda as somewhat disconnected from the rest of the story didn’t really help the production all that much, either.

If you want a good action film with plenty of monsters, than Clash of the Titans is going to fit that niche pretty well. If you wanted a modern interpretation of Greek Mythology, you’re much better served watching the Percy Jackson movie.

3.5 (maybe leaning toward 4) out of 5.


I haven’t really been a fan of Stephen King for a number of years. Sometime around the early 90’s, his writing became somewhat stale for me and his stories didn’t really take me anyplace I hadn’t already been before. He also had a way with writing various characters as stereotypes instead of truly fleshed out characters with real thoughts and desires, they became more like caricatures of previous characters he’d already dealt with and continued to deal with as each main character was either a writer or some variation on the same theme. Kings’ work simply stopped impressing me when I was old enough to stop believing in stereotypes. I did, however, read the story from which this movie is based and I was… bored. Honestly, it didn’t shock or amaze or horrify me. It was bland and typical of the kind of stuff King had been writing for years. So I didn’t feel any real need to watch the movie when it was released some short years back.

My wife, however, decided to rent it and so I pretty much just lounged back and watched it with her. The fairly standard “haunted room” story had some pretty good things going for it, including a fantastic performance from lead actor, John Cusack. The room almost immediately begins to move in on Cusack, who plays the stereotypical “Stephen King Writer” looking for a story as he seeks to debunk haunted room myths in various hotels. He’s got alcohol problems, he’s just recently quit smoking but constantly carries a last cigarette in case the world ends, and he’s avoiding any sort of resolution with the death of his only child. There’s also some vague “father-son” relationship issues, as well… so John Cusack is playing yet another small version of Kings alter-ego as he comes face to face with the horror of this one haunted room.

All in all, the film was pretty much a standard little ghost story with some good special effects and nothing much more important than that. It was a popcorn-muncher that kept my wife interested and didn’t bore me to tears, so for that it gets an unremarkable …

3 out of 5.

Zombies of Mass Destruction

Let’s bring on the grue with this selection from the much-declined in popularity “After Dark Horror Fest” featuring one of the better movies on the selection list in recent years. ZMD is part parody, and probably much more parody than it originally intended to become as a small conservative community is besieged by a plague of zombies. There are several references to the war with Iraq, neo-conservatism, prejudice, and the list goes on and on and on. This whole movie would almost seem like a slap in the face insult to conservative idealism if they hadn’t set up all the characters as flat out parodies of the things they were supposed to represent. There’s a minister struggling with a change of the times, his faith, and his “fire and brimstone” sermons regarding the nature of sin and role of his flock at the end of times. There’s a conservative mayor whose policies have become meaningless and lack the growth of an ever-changing world. The prototypical redneck “walmart” family of over enthusiastic bigots makes their own colorful narrative to the disaster at large, and we also have the struggling immigrant who has worked his fingers to the bone and yet finds his culture mocked and dismissed by his fellow neighbors. We’re given these outlandishly boorish stereotypes to boo while simultaneously offered a series of likely heroes to cheer; The immigrants’ daughter struggling with her cultural identity, the liberal teacher wants to drag her community to the present and open their minds and hearts to a world that is changing around them, and the homosexual couple who are only recently coming out of the closet. The whole formula could have worked as a largely insulting film with a far Left agenda but is, actually, so self parodying that it works to the opposite affect in many cases. When one member of the Ministers’ flock reveals a heavy collection of guns with typical far-right machismo regarding the Second Amendment, you can’t really find fault when the church is surrounded by flesh-eating zombies. You’re more likely to groan when the teacher talks about her hatred of guns, or laugh out loud at the utterly preposterous notions of what people on the Left actually think of conservatives. It’s so unbelievably stereotypical that you wind up shaking your head in shock.

One area where they get the film dead right, however, is in the two homosexual protagonists and their struggle with coming out of the closet and finding acceptance in a community that they honestly fear. These two characters have some of the best written dialogue throughout the feature and they are also the least stereotypical personalities in the film. They pretty much carry the bulk of the film, fighting off the zombie hordes with heroic flair before eventually finding shelter within the Reverends’ church. The film utterly fails, however, to really bring the same sort of connection its’ female lead who is captured by a neighboring family and tortured for information regarding “her terrorist attack” on their community. It sort of comes across as an overly awkward parody given the situation with the rest of the film.

4 out of 5 and one of the best entries yet in the annual 8 Movies to Die For selection.


I am a multi-layered geek with interests in a number of things, from comics to games to movies and pulp novel book flings. So when Netflix recommended this title from Norway, featuring an awkward title and a subcategory in “romantic comedy” I nearly clicked this thing out of existence in order to pump some more filth out of the horror category when some keywords in the plot caught my eye… Role-playing Games? I clicked the “add” button and then threw it up to the top ten films behind several movies that have been on “long wait” for the past month or so… not expecting to get it so soon, but being pleasantly surprised when I popped it in the DVD player for a tumble.

Atropia is a haven for nerds in a small Norwegian town, and it’s the only place willing to hire a young socialite after her world come tumbling down. Her car salesman boyfriend is jailed after cooking his books for some unknown amount of time, she’s forced to move in with her sister and nephew, and the constant pressure from news organizations makes it hard for the young woman to find work or even a reprieve from the stress of her boyfriends’ situation. So she takes her nephew to the local comic book store where she manages to find employment and even a sort of purpose when she’s placed in charge of their role-playing games and helps to manage their books. Not at all comfortable in her new setting, the girl manages to learn what RPG’s are, in addition to finding friendship and companionship with the “nerds” of the store who also manage to find a true friend in our main character.

So there’s no blood, no death, no massive amounts of gore, cussing, or over the top action in any way but “Atropia” still manages to take the prize for best movie of the week by simply being an engaging story with likeable characters. It was easy to identify with the stores colorful characters because I tend to spend my time with the same types; nerdy geeks who love their games, their comics, their movies, and their friendships and just glorify their nerd-itude with pride.

5 out of 5.

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