Friday, February 26, 2016

Clash of the Titans (2010)


It's pretty difficult to screw up a film based on Greek mythology, in my opinion. Of course, this is coming from a person who did indeed enjoy learning about the myths and legends of the Greek gods, demigods, monsters, et cetera. And since we know just how good entertainment based upon these myths can be (the Percy Jackson book series; the movies were just decent), perhaps one comes to expect a little more. Yes, it's a remake, and one can expect little from a remake unless they have not seen the original.

This film centers around one of the more famous names of the myths, the demigod Perseus; the guy who killed Medusa. In this particular interpretation, the humans grow weary of the gods and decide to revolt by destroying their temples and statues. Which ultimately doesn't turn out to be a great plan at all, but Zeus then chooses to allow Hades to unleash his wrath upon the city of Argos. Perseus, whose foster family was killed by Hades, decides to take it upon himself to defeat the Underworld god and save the city. Which of course leads to him killing Medusa as part of his path, during a journey with Mads Mikkelsen and a bunch of other expendables, plus a creature from a race called the Djinn which for some reason looks more like Megatron from Transformers.

All in all, Clash of the Titans is a pretty doggone clunky adaption of Greek mythology. Much of the story makes little sense; and the fight with Medusa (who is now almost completely a serpent) is surprisingly boring. The Kraken is decent, although considering that it's said "even the gods feared him," you wonder why the Zeus would agree to unleash him.

By the way, there's really no actual "Titans" clashing in this movie. Much of it is generic human vs. monster fight scenes, and the Titans themselves really don't appear (unless you count the Kraken as one, but it's never really confirmed or denied that he is one). The gods, aside from Zeus and Hades, are barely involved as well; only two of the others even speak. It's a surprisingly humanity-driven movie.

I don't really know if the 1981 film did it any better or not, but I doubt the special effects were better. This film, meanwhile, just manages to be a clunky letdown that you feel like you'd expect more from, based on its title and premise and background. But it really is that forgettable and unmemorable. All things considered, I'm surprised they were able to make a sequel; though apparently at least one Titan is actually in that movie, so maybe they got it somewhat better done in that one. Wouldn't have to try too hard. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Incredible Hulk


I feel like most people think of the Hulk these days in cinema, and they think of Mark Ruffalo as his main portrayer--since that's the guy who's played him in the two Avengers films. People are starting to forget that a certain Hulk film in 2008 where Hulk is played by Edward Norton actually is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe--at least we think so, anyway. We weren't sure for a while, but then the sudden unexpected return of William Hurt's character in Captain America: Civil War seems to have put any such thought of the film being non-canon to rest. Maybe. 

This version of the Hulk doesn't exactly follow the usual backstory of how Bruce Banner became the monster; now, it happens as part of a twisted military scheme led by General Thunderbolt Ross, who is attempting to recreate the super-soldier experiments of the 1940s (Captain America, anyone?). Banner just thinks he's attempting to make people invulnerable to gamma radiation. Until an experiment goes wrong, and he transforms into the famed green monster. 

This version of the Hulk sort of leaves me with mixed feelings. The Hulk itself is pretty awesome and has some cool fight sequences, but Edward Norton's portrayal of Bruce Banner is one of the most "meh" performances I've ever seen--I found myself thinking more of Keanu Reeves occasionally, and not in a good way. And the movie moves pretty slowly for much of the first 30-40 minutes. The first actual Hulk action sequence is so layered in shadows it's hard to tell what's going on (though perhaps that was the intention). 

That said, the film still has its moments. As mentioned earlier, Hulk has some pretty darn good fight sequences--one in the middle of a park with the Army comes to mind, and in particular the battle with Abomination at the end is spectacular and helps actually makes the film memorable in general. The film also does a good job of capturing more varying emotion on Hulk's face--something we don't see much of in Ruffalo's still-awesome Hulk (just anger; though maybe it's supposed to be that way. I don't know. I don't read the comics.) 

That said, for a film that claims (from time to time, anyway) to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's far less well-done overall. Almost all of the other films in the MCU series have top-of-the-line production values, action, acting, and dialogue. All this film really has going for it is the action (although William Hurt is good). Yes, it's enjoyable to some degree, but I still am conflicted myself on whether to consider it part of the MCU or not. But then again, so is everyone else apparently. I'm just glad they did end up replacing Norton with Ruffalo in the end, though. 

Friday, February 12, 2016



Usually, "awesome" and "dumb" are two things not like the other. Sometimes, however, they can be put together; we have such things as "awesome dumb" movies. Or, in a more long-winded way of explaining it, movies that are actually pretty ridiculous and dumb but are still somewhat decent and sort of develop a "so bad it's good" feel. Pixels is one of those movies. 

This movie is about what would happen if early 80's arcade game characters/games decided to attack us. More specifically, if we sent a time capsule filled with footage of video games was sent into space and a race of aliens took it as a declaration of war, and were somehow able to transform themselves into said arcade characters/games. Specifically: Pac-Man, Centipede, Galaga, Donkey Kong, et cetera. That's right, for this film, you definitely have to put on your "suspension of disbelief" glasses. 

So, who can combat these alien video game things? Not the Army, their weapons are useless against them. Instead, U.S. President Kevin James (er, William Cooper) is forced to call upon the video game champions from the '80's--in other words, the nerds--which includes Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Eddie (Peter Dinklage), and Ludlow. And with the help of some random technology that can somehow stop these aliens, they will defeat them. 

As you might have guessed in part from the cast, Pixels actually really isn't an action/adventure movie (though it has some elements of it) as it is a comedy. A comedy in that it has some prominent comedy actors, and in that its plot makes no sense and is funny instead. Again, the "so bad it's good" element. 

The humor does range from hilarious to weird to tasteless, as is to be expected. That said, the hilarious moments are indeed hilarious, as a bit of amusing dialogue and pop culture references abound. The other highs of the film include its actually mostly clever visuals involving the pixelated aliens and some of the action sequences involving the gaming characters (the Pac-Man chase is definitely a highlight of the film). 

Of course, the film does definitely have its issues. There is a fair amount of weird/dumb humor as well, and Peter Dinklage manages to deliver a shockingly annoying performance. And as said before, the movie itself is rather nonsensical. It is really only going to appeal to a few demographics, such as the old-school gaming fans, and those who can manage to sit and enjoy a "stupid fun" movie and laugh at the actually funny stuff and laugh at how dumb the movie is sometimes. 

Pixels certainly isn't for everyone; many will find it either too ridiculous or possibly lowbrow to find it worth sitting through. But there are those who will be able to sit through it and somewhat enjoy it as I did for what it is, and I really don't think the guys making this movie were expecting much else from its audience. 

Postscript: Wait a minute, Chris Columbus directed this? The guy who made Home Alone, the first two Harry Potter movies, and the first Percy Jackson movie directed *this?* Wow. Guy has some directorial range. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Olympus Has Fallen


In 2013, there were two incredibly alike films released that both focused on White House terrorist attacks. There was the insanely frantic Roland Emmerich intense action thriller White House Down, which proved to be one of the director's better films. There was also Olympus Has Fallen, which was *much* more violent and a bit more realistic, and yet somehow more forgettable. 

Olympus Has Fallen's plot centers around a terrorist attack that springs during the middle of a meeting between U.S. President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and the South Korean Prime Minister; led by a North Korean terrorist trying to reunify Korea (and not seemingly for the better). Nearly the entire Secret Service is killed; and the President is taken hostage while the terrorists begin to run their evil plan. And who's left to get the President out and save the day? Channing Tatum's character--oh wait, wrong movie. Gerard Butler's character Mike Banning, ex-Special Forces and current Secret Service. 

In many ways, if you've already seen White House Down, the basic plot is pretty doggone similar. White House is taken by terrorists, President is held hostage, and an action hero comes in to save the day. The only real differences are the type of terrorists and their motivations--plus the fact that the hero's daughter is also a hostage in WHD. To a degree, once you've seen one, you've seen both. 

That said, Olympus Has Fallen moves a bit more slowly than White House Down does following the initial attack. The suspense is still there somewhat, but there's less of the explosive battles and drawn-out fistfights and more quick skirmishes with Jason Bourne-esque moves winning the day. Olympus gets its biggest sequence out of the way early with the initial attack, which is admittedly quite intense and well done. What happens afterwards is all the infiltration stuff which is interesting at the time but ultimately quite forgettable. The only real memorable part afterwards is the ending fight between Gerard Butler and the unexpectedly skilled-at-fighting main villain. 

Olympus Has Fallen should be a mildly entertaining ride for most action/adventure fans, and it does benefit from strong acting on the part of Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman. Ultimately, though, between the two 2013 White House terrorist attack films, I have to go with White House Down. It will be interesting to see whether London Has Fallen can prove to be a bit more groundbreaking. 

Friday, February 5, 2016



Let's be honest. Ant-Man is one of the dumbest superheroes ever, at least in concept, ever to get a movie. 

I mean, let's take a look at the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) series. We've got a billionaire in an iron suit, the god of thunder himself with a hammer, a couple of ninjas, a super-soldier, a nearly unbeatable green giant, and... the Guardians of the Galaxy. (Still not sure what else to call those awesome guys.) All these guys, and now we've got... a guy who can put on a suit that can shrink him to the size of an ant, and transform him into a cross between Iron Man and a slower The Flash... if they were both tiny. 

Yup, that sounds stupid. 

So, the guy behind the mask is... actually two people. First, the billionaire who originally created the technology, Hank Pym, who chose to keep it hidden away for nearly thirty years... until his former apprentice goes insane with power and recreates the technology in a more aggressive form. (Simply, the "Yellowjacket.") This causes Pym to give the suit to an ex-thief named Scott Lang, so he can break into his former apprentice's lab and stop him from unleashing chaos. 

Ant-Man is certainly an interesting enigma of a superhero movie. It seems to know that its own idea sucks ("Is it too late to change the name?"), throwing whatever crap they can at us to keep us watching (heck, part of the final showdown takes place around a freaking Thomas the Tank Engine set). And yet, Marvel Studios knows they still have us wrapped in the palm of their hand, because they can still make sufficiently decent movies out of the dumbest superheroes. 

Yes, Marvel Studios somehow manages to pull this one off, mostly. It moves pretty slowly during the first half, as we sit through Scott's pretty-much-boring life as an ex-thief before he becomes Ant-Man and then his training to become the Ant-Man is mostly uninteresting as well. It's when we get to the actual mission and the showdown/climax that follows that things actually get exciting and fun. The humor itself ranges from hilarious to just straight up dumb (we could've done without Scott's human sidekicks and their humor), but it mostly helps to keep the film on its feet. 

Ant-Man is certainly on the lower tier of the MCU films, but it's still a mostly fun/charming superhero film that is sure to entertain to one degree or another. It's certainly not a classic and you'll probably still finish the movie thinking, "Meh, I still like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Guardians, and pretty much everyone else better." That said, it's hard to come out straight up disliking it. Ant-Man is somehow yet another (mostly) successful venture from Marvel Studios, and now they're actually making me believe they'll be able to pull off guys like Doctor Strange and Black Panther. Time will tell, I guess.