Friday This ‘n’ That – Truly Terrible Taglines

Taglines are nice, easy ways to sell your product. Properly handled, they say something complimentary about your product while hopefully being witty at the same time. On the other hand, a poor one can be a source of amusement.

We were driving back from Florida and I saw a restaurant I had never heard of. The name of the restaurant was Millhouse and their tagline was “not just a steakhouse”. My thought was of course “oh, they’re a steakhouse”. Sooo, not such a good tagline though it does convey that they are indeed a steakhouse.

We went cruising on the disappointing Norwegian line but, thanks to targeting, I saw ads for Carnival on the book of faces. “Not what you’d expect from cruise food” is their unfortunate tagline. As what one would hopefully expect from cruise food is really nice steaks and lobster, this is a rather scary tagline. This may be meant to challenge the current perception that cruise food has gone downhill (it has) but is more likely meant to combat the generally accepted maxim that Carnival has the worst cruise food (cheapest cruise = cheapest food?).

Double Impact

Bringing this back to my blog’s raison d’etre, one of my favorite movie taglines is from Double Impact. The movie is just a typical Jean Claude Van Damme vehicle but the plot involves Van Damme as twins separated as infants (a la the 1941 Douglas Fairbanks vehicle, The Corsican Brothers). The tagline is “Twice the Van Damage!”. I occasionally appropriate this line for other purposes.

Next of Kin

Getting back to unfortunate taglines, my best friend Patrick (miss you, bud) and I were seeing some movie back in the late 80s when a preview for Next of Kin came on. It’s a story of a family of hillbillies coming to Chicago to take on the mob. In spite of a game cast (check out a pre-Taken Irish Liam Neeson as a hillbilly or Ben Stiller in a non-comedic role), it is as bad as that sounds. Near the end of the preview, star Patrick Swayze intones “You ain’t seen bad yet but it’s comin'”. Thanks for the summation.

Run All Night from the Gunman

Yay! After not going to the movies for weeks, I’ve seen four movies in three days. I got to see the delightful revival of Rear Window with my wife, Cinderella with my girls, and a day by myself with Run All Night and The Gunman.

Yay for the return of the R-rated action thriller! It’s not that PG or PG-13 is bad but it often seems like PG-13 films are shoehorned into a tight box. The filmmakers are either constrained by how much they can put in or have to cut out to maintain that rating.

Run All Night

 

Run All Night (2015) – Rated R

Mobster and hit man Jimmy Conlon has one night to figure out where his loyalties lie: with his estranged son, Mike, whose life is in danger, or his longtime best friend, mob boss Shawn Maguire, who wants Mike to pay for the death of his own son.”

You wouldn’t know it from any of the trailers but Liam Neeson starts the movie as a burned out, alcoholic loser. The trailers, of course, highlight Neeson as a tough guy, just like every other one of his movies. The problem with the trailers is that they are fairly indistinguishable from each other.

Run All Night is not great but is miles better than the crapfest that was Taken 3. It is also better than The Gunman. It is very story involved a la The Grey and Walk Among the Tombstones but the script doesn’t quite measure up. Still there is an enjoyable time to be had.

The Gunman

 

The Gunman (2015) – Rated R

A sniper on a mercenary assassination team, kills the minister of mines of the Congo. Terrier’s successful kill shot forces him into hiding. Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself.

Way back in 2004, Pierre Morel made his directorial debut with the outrageous District B13. District 13 brought parkour to the big screen and the stunts were incredible. It is still an enjoyable romp and is available on instant Netflix so go watch it! It was remade in 2014 as Brick Mansions but skip that very dumbed down and shaky cammed version.

In 2008, Morel followed District 13 up with the original Taken. This was yet another wonderful action film and reinvented Liam Neeson as an action star. After that was the amusing but deeply flawed From Paris With Love. It failed to reignite Travolta’s career.

The Gunman is Morel’s fourth feature film in the directors seat. This one seems tailor-made to reinvent Sean Penn as an action star, though that does not work. Since Penn is restrained by Morel, Morel allows Javier Bardem to egregiously overact. Our love interest is Annie, played by Italian actress Jasmine Trinca.

Supporting them are Ray Winstone as Terrier (Penn)’s friend, Stanley and Idris Elba as an enigmatic Interpol agent named DuPont. The only other actor of note is Mark Rylance as Cox.

Unfortunately there is no real artistry on display here. The Gunman is just fine if you need an action fix but not anything more. It all seems a paint-by-numbers globetrotting, professional seeks revenge for betrayal setup. The cast is good but not well used. Elba only has a few minutes of screen time. Somebody get that man a good role.

The Road Not Taken 3

Taken 3 is currently in theaters

Taken 3

 

Taken 3 (2015) – Rated PG-13

Ex-government operative Bryan Mills is accused of a ruthless murder he never committed or witnessed. As he is tracked and pursued, Mills brings out his particular set of skills to find the true killer and clear his name.

Ugh.

It is pretty sad when absolutely the best thing about a Liam Neeson action movie is the preview for Liam Neeson’s next action movie.

One Line Review: Liam Neeson is a man with a particular set of skills – unfortunately saving this film is not one of them.

I have to admit that I was not caught unawares. Taken (directed by Pierre Morel) was a fabulous romp but Taken 2 (directed by Olivier Megaton) was just awful, in spite of some nice shots of Istanbul, the same cast (well, those who survived the first film anyway), and the same screenwriters.

All three films were written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Strangely Taken is well written but Taken 2 is a slapped together mess, apart from the humorous idea that all of the surviving family members of the villains that Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) killed have banded together.

The script for Taken 3 is surprisingly lazy. Since Mills was a superspy, you can simply write him doing anything to escape or kill and they do but the scene of Kim Mills being bugged is stupidly clumsy. When you hear Basil Exposition state that Kim always drinks the fourth peach yogurt drink back in the fridge, you will be rolling your eyes waiting for that tip to be useful. We actually return to that little gem twice.

Still lazy is better than inept. I think Olivier Megaton is easily the worst director working in action movies today. After taking down the Transporter series, he has now destroyed Taken in two steps.

I feel so sorry for the stuntmen on Taken 3. Straining to look, you can see that there is a lot of fantastic stuntwork going on in Taken 3. Sadly, Megaton films it entirely with jump cuts and shaky cams. I did a count in my head during one sequence where a car goes off a cliff and I couldn’t get past two Mississippi before it cut over and over again to different angles of the same scene. Every single action sequence is ruined in this fashion. A nice shootout in a liquor store shows some promise but any other director would have handled it better.

Taken 3 seems bizarrely discontent with its PG-13 rating, aiming instead for an actual PG in the violence, despite the torture. I don’t remember specific examples of language but all of the violence is filmed in an incredibly bloodless fashion. When Mills finds a body in his bed, he is completely in disbelief that the person is dead, in spite of the victim’s throat having been slit. I can understand his disbelief as there isn’t so much as a drop of blood spilled in the entire bed.

Lest you posit that this person was killed elsewhere, drained of blood, and transported, let me post another example. Later in the film, Mills shoots a shirtless protagonist mutliple times in the torso. He then tortures this individual by poking his gun in the bullet hole. There is not a drop of blood on this victim, either before torture or after gun poking. This goes on and on. The usual ridiculous number of people are killed for an action film, all bloodlessly.

The tagline for Taken 3 is It Ends Here. We can only hope.

WYSIWYG A Walk Among the Tombstones

WYSIWYG is the design principle of “What You See is What You Get” and applies to this movie as much as The November Man. A Walk Among the Tombstones is currently playing in theaters.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

 

A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014) – Rated R

Private investigator Matthew Scudder is hired by a drug kingpin to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife

I first have to admit to being one of those people who enjoys that Neeson was well over fifty when he re-invented himself as an action star. He has been in a wide variety of films throughout his acting career and had some great roles before coming into his own as Ducard in Batman Begins and then chilling viewers as a man with a particular set of skills in Taken. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for Schindler’s List but lost to Tom Hanks for Philadelphia.

If you want to see Neeson as a modern private investigator then A Walk Among the Tombstones is for you, just don’t expect much more than that. At least it is filmed in New York so the locations are authentic.

I have a bit of a bone to pick with the trailer. There is an important piece of story that isn’t revealed until about two-thirds of the way through the movie. It is just backstory and as such not truly a spoiler but logically is important to reveal at that point. Well the reveal is in every trailer and commercial I have seen for this movie. Not just that but it was unnecessary as concealing would have involved shaving just a few seconds but I digress.

The movie is based on Lawrence Block’s novel of the same name. Block has written a number of novels featuring Matthew Scudder. 8 Million Ways to Die was filmed in 1986 with a young Jeff Bridges as Scudder. A Walk Among the Tombstones is wisely left in its setting (1999) as much of the plot would have to be reworked in this age of cellphones and a computer-phobic PI would be laughed at.

It is important to note that while this is being sold (somewhat) as a Liam Neeson action film, it is not. It is a mystery film with Scudder (Neeson) trying to figure out what happened in a kidnapping gone wrong. Director Scott Frank also adapted Block’s novel. The movie definitely proceeds along a literary pace with just a handful of action setpieces to showcase Neeson’s physicality.

It should also be noted that Tombstone’s R-rating is more than justified by the subject matter. The MPAA lists it as strong violence, disturbing images, language, and brief nudity. Many of the disturbing images are sexual assault related. I think that Frank did a good job of capturing the horror of the situation with the images instead of outright showing the assault, though honestly I don’t care for either in my films.

While I enjoyed Neeson and Dan Stevens as Kenny, the client who hires Scudder, no one else really stood out. Being primarily a mystery, the villains aren’t caught up with until late in the game and really don’t stand out as characters. Frank should definitely have hired some bigger guns for at least part of the movie.

As with yesterday’s Brosnan picture, A Walk Among the Tombstones is really only recommended if you have a particular affinity for the star. It is certainly a better film than The November Man but the setting comes across as dated instead of nostalgic. That said, I would welcome seeing Neeson as Scudder in further adaptations.

Edge of a Million Maleficent Ways to Die Tomorrow in the West

I’ve had quite a banner summer at the theater. Here are just a few quick tidbits.

Maleficent

Maleficent (2014) – Rated PG

A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.”

I both look forward to and cringe with every non-animated re-imagining from Disney. Alice in Wonderland (2010) was a gorgeous confection.but ultimately shallow. Ditto for Oz the Great and Powerful (2013). Maleficent is much the same with CGI replacing plotting and character development. The story neuters the character of Maleficent, one of the great Disney villains.

Having said that, this is an enjoyable ride for the kids and Angelina Jolie IS Maleficent. Her performance at least partially redeems the movie.

A Million Ways to Die

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014) – Rated R

As a cowardly farmer begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gun-slinger, announces his arrival.”

The Good: It is way funnier than Neighbors and Neil Patrick Harris is always delightful.

The Bad: It is just okay. Ted was much funnier. Joke delivery could use some work – it is pretty laconic, much like the Old West.

The Ugly: While trying to be edgy, it tells endless penis and fart jokes. The western setting may be offputting for some, tired for others.

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) – Rated PG-13

An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy.”

Groundhog Day is a fantastic movie, heartwarming and funny. The concept is so beloved that many television series have produced their own version. The X-Files and Star Trek: TNG had time loop episodes, albeit played seriously. Xena had perhaps the funniest Groundhog Day episode. In spite of it being a tired concept, it has worked time and time again (forgive me).

My dear wife and I went to Edge of Tomorrow with little in the way of expectations. Tom Cruise’s science fiction thriller last year, Oblivion, was decent but a missed opportunity. Edge of Tomorrow is fantastic. Jenny and I couldn’t stop laughing through the first half of the movie as Cruise’s soldier character dies repeatedly.

The Non-Stop Monuments Men

I also got to see Non-Stop and Monuments Men this past weekend. while neither was great, they were both far better than the other movies I saw (300 Rise of an Empire, Pompeii, 3 Days to Kill).

Non-Stop

 

Non-Stop (2014) – Rated PG-13

An air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.

I’m not hijacking this plane. I’m trying to save it! ”

One Line Review: Exciting, generic thriller is enjoyable albeit pointless

Non-Stop was a breath of fresh, yet recycled, air after 300: Rise of an Empire.

Non-Stop is a standard Liam Neeson thriller. As long as he can keep up the quality and they bring in the box office, Neeson’s turns should not devolve into direct-to-DVD fodder like the output from Van Damme, Seagal, Bronson, etc.

The story is nothing, simply made to keep you guessing. It is fun as it goes along but after the climax you’ll be scratching your head realizing so-and-so could not possibly have known about such-and-such. Such and such being many, many different things. The only possible ending that makes sense of the events is a fascinating one that you have to read into the script. I’d love to discuss it at length but I don’t post spoilers.

Liam Neeson is in fine form. They give him a tragic backstory to help propel the plot and appeal to his hangdog demeanor. At one point, Julianne Moore simply blurts out her character’s backstory as an exposition dump but is otherwise fine. Lupita Nyong’O is wasted here in a role that is only exceeded in thanklessness by the played by Shea Whigham. I have to assume that some of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

The Monuments Men

 

The Monuments Men (2014) – Rated PG-13

An unlikely World War II platoon is tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners.”

One Line Review: Fascinating story told rather passively and by-the-numbers.

George Clooney has a knack for finding unusual stories and telling them well. Ignoring his acting achievements, Clooney was nominated for both directing and writing for Good Night, and Good Luck. He nominated for writing again with Ides of March.

Clooney co-wrote The Monuments Men with frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. He directs a fabulous, if topical cast: Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, and John Goodman all perform well here. Clooney’s direction is assured if not inspired.

So what went wrong? The Monuments Men is too unfocused. Throughout the film, the men are scattered across Europe. There is not enough humor to turn this into a Dirty Dozen, not enough planning for a caper film, and we don’t really feel invested in the characters. Perhaps the narrative is flawed by sticking too close to real events and the book but I never felt invested in the characters.

The Monuments Men is not bad. It just isn’t what it should be, considering the pedigree.

People Watch: Look for Downton Abbey’s own Lord Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as one of the Monuments Men.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day – Jekyll Centurion In The Grey Bruges

Well no green beer for me this year but I thought I’d highlight some films from my favorite Irish actors.

The Grey

 

The Grey (2012) – Rated R

After narrowly surviving a deadly plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, a band of oil riggers must battle the elements — and a pack of wolves.

Obviously, Liam Neeson kicks serious butt. He currently stars in Non-Stop which was a lot of (nonsensical) fun AND The Lego Movie (as Good Cop/Bad Cop) which was even more fun. While I enjoy his action movies, The Grey is not actually the survival story the trailer would have you believe. Instead it’s a wonderful existential treatise on life and death disguised as a survival movie.

Jekyll

Jekyll (2007) – TV-14

In modern-day London, Dr. Jekyll’s last living descendant believes he can control his dark side, but a secret society has other plans for him.”

James Nesbitt is a favorite Irish actor of mine, mostly for this British miniseries. He is just fine as Jekyll but the first time you see him as Hyde, you’ll be hooked. He currently stars as Bofur in The Hobbit movies.

In Bruges

In Bruges (2008) – Rated R

After a job goes wrong in London, two hit men are ordered to lay low at a bed-and-breakfast in Bruges, Belgium, until their boss contacts them.”

In Bruges features two of my favorite Irish actors. When he isn’t getting into trouble, Colin Farrell is quite the charmer and Brendan Gleeson is always good, usually better than his material deserves. In Bruges is absolutely hysterical, an understated gem from the folks that made Seven Psychopaths (also hysterical)

Centurion

Centurion (2010) – Rated R

In 2nd-century Britain, a famed centurion and a handful of Roman soldiers try to survive behind enemy lines after Pict tribesmen decimate the platoon.”

I really enjoy Liam Cunningham in everything. Lately I’ve caught him as Davos in Game of Thrones but that obviously isn’t on Netflix. Netflix does stream Centurion, in which Liam has a supporting role. Not only that but it has Michael Fassbender in a starring role. In spite of that, the movie is stolen by Dominic West as General Virilus and Olga Kurylenko as Etain.

 

It’s Hammer Time plus Liam Neeson Among the Wolves

I’ve had mixed feelings about the new Hammer films. I have seen three of their four new offerings. The Resident was not very good, Wake Wood had an intriguing premise but was flawed, but Let Me In was a magnificent remake of Let the Right One In. I missed The Woman in Black but look forward to catching it down the line.

Hammer Films now has a YouTube channel. They plan to rotate some of their older films. Currently you can view these films in their entirety: Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974), The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), The Man in Black (1950), Dick Barton Special Agent (1948), and The Last Page aka Man Bait (1952). The Quatermass Xperiment is wonderful, Captain Kronos is fun (and you can see where they hoped it would be a series) but I have not watched the other three.

* Whoops! Apparently The Quatermass Xperiment and Captain Kronos are blocked in the United States.

The Hammer Films channel also has trailers and featurettes but is still a work in progress. I really like the restoration work they are doing before releasing their back catalog on Blu-Ray. Unfortunate not in the United States as yet and they are far too expensive for me to start importing. I’d have to find a region-free Blu-Ray player as these are region-locked and then they would cost me 10-17 pounds apiece plus shipping.

Compare that price to The Ultimate Hammer Collection on DVD. The collection costs 26 pounds but for that you get 21 movies including my favorite (and long out of print in the U.S.) Quatermass and the Pit. I bought a region-free DVD player and this set and it was still cheaper than buying the out of print Quatermass.

I sure hope the Blu-Rays will come over here at some point. Until then I will have to content myself with Synapse’s Twins of Evil Blu-Ray and perhaps I’ll even spring for Vampire Circus.

If you are patiently awaiting Taken 2 in theaters then try Liam Neeson’s latest manly manfest The Grey – now streaming on Netflix.

After narrowly surviving a deadly plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, a band of oil riggers must fend for their lives in the ice and snow. But thanks to wolves that view their presence as a threat, they aren’t alone.”

Aliens Attack! Hasbro’s Battleship Edition

Aliens are invading this week every time I turn around. I would love to write a full review of the entertaining but deeply stupid Battleship but my wife sent me this wonderful link to William Shakespeare’s Battleship by Yoni Brenner

SCENE I
A Battleship, sailing majestically. Enter a common SAILOR.

SAILOR
Ahoy ye sailors!—friends and noblemen—
Riding ‘twixt glist’ring waves so bright and blue
That one cannot help but stand and marvel
At the resplendence of Neptune’s kingdom
And the miracle of color correction!
A Band of Brothers we are not, but rather,
A jambalaya of studs and starlets,
Drawn from ev’ry creed and ev’ry hair-type,
Selected, as if by algorithm,
To inflame the hearts and body issues
Of the prize’d target demographic.
Anon, we join this ship—this Battleship!—
With spirits high and cheekbones higher still,
Our sextants fix’d upon the one truly
Bankable star aboard this o’erstuffed vessel.
He whose sapphire eyes and manly shoulders,
Doth evoke the simple ethos of the
Heartland; belied only slightly by the
Rich Irish brogue that doth cling to ev’ry
Consonant like so many barnacles.

Liam Neeson enters, dressed as a CAPTAIN.

SAILOR
Hark! He comes! Pray don’t mention what I said
About his accent.

The CAPTAIN addresses the CREW with a barely concealed Irish accent.

CAPTAIN
Friends! Gaffers! Hang’rs-on!
‘Tis I, thy totally American captain,
Proud son of one of those states in the middle
That definitely hath a name, although
I cannot recall it at the moment.

SAILOR
Forsooth Captain, canst thou at least name the
First letter o’ the state?

The CAPTAIN shakes his head.

CAPTAIN
Alas, I cannot.

The CREW grumbles in disappointment.

CAPTAIN
But stay, friends! I come bearing sweet tidings:
For my accountant hath called and confirmeth
Beyond all doubt that mine check hath clear’ed!
And so I am honor-bound to maintain
A straight face for the next ninety minutes,
Even whilst barking generic orders,
Like “Hard to Starboard!” and “Full speed ahead!”
All of which hath been trademarked by Hasbro.
‘Tis indeed an honor to serve amongst
Such distinguish’d mariners as the guy
From True Blood, Riggins from Friday Night Lights,
And th’ pop star Rihanna—all of whom
Seem to be coated in a thin layer
Of Neoprene.

SAILOR
Er, Captain, excuse the interruption,
But art thou going anywhere with this?

CAPTAIN
Nay, my good man, not really. Just riffing.

Enter RIHANNA, THE GUY FROM TRUE BLOOD, and RIGGINS, FROM FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

CAPTAIN
How now, Rihanna? What ho, guy from True Blood?
What news dost thou bring from the radar thingie?

RIHANNA
Ay me, dear captain! Most grievous fortune!
For we are invaded by space robots!

The CAPTAIN is confused.

CAPTAIN
Space robots? Art thou sure sweet Rihanna?
For yea, I cannot recall any such
Robots in the original board game.
Only a grid of numbers and letters,
And cheap plastic pegs with which for keeping score.

THE GUY FROM TRUE BLOOD
Thou rememberest correctly O Captain
But the gods at Hasbro hath recognized
Long ago that the Battleship brand
Couldst not survive on grids and pegs alone.
Hence the space robots.

CAPTAIN
I see thy logic.
What say’st thou Riggins from Friday Night Lights?

RIGGINS
Pray let me defer to the True Blood Guy,
For alas, I have forgotten my lines.

The CAPTAIN nods, resolved.

CAPTAIN
If Riggins concurs then it is settled!
We shall attack the space robots at once!

The CREW cheers.

CAPTAIN
Hard to starboard! Full speed ahead! Ready
The doubles! For if we are true of heart
And straight of face there is no way this thing
Cannot gross a bajillion dollars!

Exeunt. End of scene.

Battleship (2010) – Rated PG-13

“A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals. “

The Shakespeare version above was actually as entertaining as the movie. I swear I am not making this next part up. After a U.S. warship is COMPLETELY destroyed in full view of Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), Alex says “I have a bad feeling about this.”. Funny I had a similar bad feeling going into this.

The issue that got under my skin in Battleship was the marketing committee making the movie. Besides the young model leads and PG-13 rating to get the kids to come, you have Liam Neeson to bring in the adults. There is shameless pandering promoting elderly war veterans, the Japanese (for the overseas market), and the disabled. All three feel horribly forced and extremely labored – the term flogging a dead horse came to mind often during the course of the film.

The film opens with our ‘hero’ Alex being a shiftless bum who gets drunk and breaks into a convenience store to impress the requisite blond model who plays the love interest. He impresses her by stealing a microwave chicken burrito that he delivers to her WHILE BEING TASED! Again I am not making this up.

Cut to a few years later and he has joined his brother in the navy as a lieutenant. Wow his family must have serious connections.

One of the most hilarious things occurs behind the scenes. The U.S. military would not give The Avengers their blessing because they found the story too unbelievable (at least that’s the story). Battleship clearly has the backing of the U.S. Navy. Much of the outlandishness occurs in the third act and makes me want to tear my hair out but I don’t want to spoil a major plot point so I’ll just say the movie gets even stupider.

A note to the aliens: if you have two major weapons and one sometimes works and the other always works and causes much more destruction then perhaps you should lead with the good weapon. We don’t send in infantry and ask them to fight hand-to-hand and tell them when that doesn’t work then they can pull out a gun and shoot.

All of this is not to say that Battleship is without merit. It does have a number of pretty explosions and plenty of scenes set aboard real U.S. Navy vessels. Some of the action, like that of the boardgame counterpart, is strategic in nature. The aliens, while enigmatic, have some interesting ideas.

Clash of the Titans – Theatrical

My wife, daughter and I went to see Clash of the Titans on Friday at Cinebarre. My daughter loves mythology and I love monsters. My wife came along because she loves us. Oh and she also love the milkshakes which Cinebarre serves at your table – I had chocolate, my wife had cookies & cream, and I am not sure which one my daughter had (mint chocolate chip?).

The original Clash of the Titans is currently available on instant Netflix. The remake is only available in theaters so is the remake worth your hard-earned money? In a word,

NO!

PASS: Clash of the Titans (2010) – Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality.

“If he is to save the life of the beautiful Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), the valiant Perseus (Sam Worthington) — born to a god but raised as a man — must lead a team of intrepid warriors on a quest to battle a host of powerful, beastly enemies. This sweeping fantasy epic, a remake of the 1981 hit, also stars Liam Neeson as Zeus, Ralph Fiennes as Hades, Danny Huston as Poseidon and Gemma Arterton as Io.”

Where oh where did this go wrong? The original is no classic but is beloved as the last film animated by Ray Harryhausen. The actors in the original are quite wooden but the creatures are absolutely wonderful.

The studios hired hot French action director Louis Leterrier to remake the 1981 film. Previously Leterrier took a good property that had misfired (The Hulk) and remade it into something really cool and worthy of the property (The Incredible Hulk).

The original script, written by Beverley Cross, took many liberties with mythology. The new script, hammered out by 100 blind-folded monkeys on typewriters – wait I mean three separate writers, just chucks mythology and sense out of the window.

Writer Travis Beacham previously wrote Seconds and Dog Days of Summer. Writers Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay previously wrote Aeon Flux and the Tuxedo. I am really not sure who to blame but the writing is dreadful.

I was pretty much cringing through the first half-hour of the film.

When they first show the gods, my wife whispered to me, “Oh my its the gods of the round table”. The gods are shown in full shiny Arthurian-lite battle armor. Not only do they borrow from Arthurian mythos but later in the film, we have Djinn. Never mind that they are not Djinn in any traditional sense of the word.

Someone obviously liked Ralph Fiennes in Harry Potter. Here he plays Hades but they told him not to bother acting. Just play him exactly as if you were Voldemort. That was the sum of his acting direction.

Liam Neeson, normally a wonderful actor, sleepwalks his way through his performance (paycheck please!) but is still of course fun to watch.

I have now seen two (this and Terminator Salvation) of the three tentpole movies that have starred Sam Worthington. I am trying to reserve judgment until I see Avatar but I believe Sam is the new Keanu Reeves. He has no emotional range here at all.

Mads Mikkelson is quite good as Draco and stands out from the rest of the cookie-cutter characters. Sadly he still has to work within the script.

The writing direction for Hades is to take those parts that would normally belong to Poseidon (you know god of the seas, oceans, etc.) and assign them to Hades. So the lord of the Underworld releases the Kraken from the depths of the sea. Hrrrm.

I understand the god/mythology/religion/analogies but they basically portray Hades as Satan throughout the film. All other god roles besides Zeus and Hades are reduced to essentially window dressing.

Apparently Andromeda (Alexa Davos) was not a sufficient love interest for Perseus so we also have Io (Gemma Arterton). In normal Greek mythology Zeus ends up taking Io as a lover and turns her into a heifer to hide her from Hera. She has no part at all in the Perseus story but hey why stop now.

In addition to rewriting mythology, the story makes no sense. Perseus does not live in Argos, is not romantically involved with Andromeda, and apparently does not know anyone in Argos. In spite of this he leads a group of warriors to certain death so that one woman will not have to be sacrificed to save the city.

The action is fun after the first half hour. The Scorpiok fight is quite exciting. These and a few of the performances are the only things that drag this up to the pass level.

The Medusa, which should be the showpiece of the film, looks very plastic-y compared to the rest of the effects. It almost looks as if it the final rendering pass was skipped.

By all accounts AVOID the 3-D version. This film was not made with 3-D in mind – 3D was added in post-production and by all accounts, it is terrible (though I went to the 2D version and do not have firsthand knowledge of the 3D).

People Watch: The other gods have extremely little screen time and if lucky get to utter a single line. Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir on Star Trek DS9) plays Hermes. Danny Huston (Colonel Stryker in Wolverine) plays Poseidon. Izabella Miko (Coyote Ugly) plays Athena.