Clash of The Titans (2010)


Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures

Directed by Louis Letettier

Produced by Richard D. Zanuck

Screenplay by Travis Beacham and Phil Hay

Based on the 1981 motion picture “Clash of The Titans” Directed by Desmond Davis and Written by Beverley Cross

When it was confirmed that a remake of the classic 1981 “Clash of The Titans” would be happening, fans of that movie sent up offerings to the Gods of Film that the movie would not suck.  The overwhelming consensus seemed to be that the movie would try to copy the magic of Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion visual effects through CGI. I admit myself I had misgivings.  I’ll be the first to admit that 1981’s “Clash of The Titans” isn’t Mr. Harryhausen’s best work.  It was his last film and he knew that his time was over due to a small film called “Star Wars” that had ushered in a new style of special effects techniques that could be done faster and cheaper.  He went out in style, though and while his “Clash of The Titans” isn’t his best movie, it is a helluva lot of fun to watch and one of my all-time favorite movies.

The strength of this version of CLASH OF THE TITANS doesn’t come from it trying to be exactly like the previous movie.  We get three signature scenes of the 1981 version: The Medusa stalking Perseus and his men in the ruins of an ancient temple.  Perseus stealing the magic eye of The Stygian Witches and forcing them to tell him how to kill The Kraken.  And Perseus facing off against The Kraken.  We even get to hear Liam Neeson intone those immortal words; “Release The Kraken!”  But this CLASH OF THE TITANS goes into a different direction due to the tweaking of the motivations of the main characters.  And there are a couple of nice nods to Mr. Harryhausen’s work.  Hades commands a squadron of harpies that look a lot like the harpies from “Jason and The Argonauts.”  Bubo the mechanical owl has a cameo.  The giant scorpions reminded me of the giant scorpions in the original, naturally.  But they also reminded me of the giant animals from “The Mysterious Island”

In this one, Perseus (Sam Worthington) doesn’t find out he’s the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) until he’s up to his eyeballs in his quest to find a way to destroy The Kraken.  He’s told of his immortal origins by Io (Gemma Arterton) while he’s being held prisoner in the city of Argos.  Perseus has just seen his adopted family killed by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) Brought to the city of Argos, he is witness to another bloody rampage by Hades who informs King Cepheus (Vincent Regan) that he will unleash The Kraken in ten days unless Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) is given up as a sacrifice.  All of this is part of a long game by Hades to influence humans so that they will stop worshipping the gods and start to fear them.  Zeus and the other gods grow weaker as a result while Hades grows stronger as his power is nourished by fear and hatred.  Hades has been resentful of Zeus for eons ever since Zeus tricked him into becoming Lord of The Underworld and he figures it’s time he got the chance to live among the clouds and walk around in sparkly armor like the rest of the gods.

Upon learning that Perseus is a demigod, King Cepheus asks him to lead his personal guard to find a way to save his daughter.  Perseus agrees.  Not because he’s in love with Andromeda as in the original.  He’s hellbent on revenging his murdered family and spitting in the collective eye of the gods while he does it.

Unlike the original, we get to know the soldiers that accompany Perseus on his quest, especially their leader, Draco (Mads Mikkelsen) who trains Perseus to fight and challenges him to embrace his dual heritage as man and god for the betterment of all and not reject it out of childish spite.  It’s a good relationship between the two.  And the characterization of the soldiers makes them a mythological version of “The Dirty Dozen” and not just a nameless bunch of red shirts.

And I like how in this version, Perseus actually has to work for his victories.  He’s given an enchanted sword and the use of the winged horse Pegasus but he prefers not to use either one until he realizes that unless he makes peace with himself he will never save Andromeda.

It sounds like there’s a little more psychological and philosophical depth here than in the original and there is.  But it doesn’t get in the way of the action and there is enough to satisfy.  This is another movie that people love to bash because of the CGI but I’m not one of them.  The stalking scene with The Medusa here doesn’t live up to the original, I’ll admit.  It’s nowhere near as creepy as the original which still gives me goose bumps when I watch it.  But it’s effective in doing its job in bringing a mythological world and it’s creatures to life.

So should you see 2010’s CLASH OF THE TITANS?  If you didn’t see it in theaters because you listened to those who told you how lousy the CGI effects were and how wooden the acting is and that the story stunk, I’m here to tell you that it’s nowhere near that bad.  I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s a masterpiece.  But I am going to tell you that’s it’s a movie worth your time if you’re looking for solid entertainment.  It’s not the Ray Harryhausen version and it’s not supposed to be.  It’s its own movie and it earns that on its own strengths.  Enjoy.

106 minutes


John Carter

Walt Disney Pictures


Directed by Andrew Stanton

Produced by Jim Morris and Colin Wilson

Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon

Based on “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs

It was while waiting in the theater lobby for my wife after we had just seen JOHN CARTER that I heard a snatch of conversation that most likely was duplicated in one way or another in movie theater lobbies all across the country.  It went something like this; “It would have been a better movie if it didn’t try to rip off so many other movies.”

If I was not the sweet, gentle soul you all know and love I would have put that worthy in a serious headlock and informed him that the book the movie JOHN CARTER is based on, “A Princess of Mars” was written back in 1912 by Edgar Rice Burroughs who just about created the sub-genre of science fiction which could well be termed “Sword and Planet.”  With his series of novels set on the Red Planet, Mr. Burroughs also created a template for heroic adventure fiction that has has been homaged, borrowed, copied and downright stolen from then until now.  John Carter is the great-great grandfather of dozens, if not hundreds of heroes in comic books, novels, movies and television.  Not to mention the influence the books has had on writers, artists and scientists.  Most American astronauts will claim “A Princess of Mars” along with “Star Trek” as the major influence in them wanting to be an astronaut.  The importance of Edgar Rice Burroughs, his creation of John Carter and his vision of Mars simply cannot be overstated.

But that’s enough of the history lesson.  You’re here to find out if I think JOHN CARTER is worth your time and money.  Okay, for a change I won’t make you read the whole review to find out.  Yes.  JOHN CARTER is most definitely worth your time and your money.  Not having read the book in quite some time I’m not going to swear to the faithfulness of the adaptation but most of the major scenes rang true to me and they’re what I wanted to see and I wasn’t disappointed.

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a former Confederate Army soldier who goes west to prospect for gold after The Civil War and finds a whole cave full of the stuff.  He also finds trouble from a Union Captain (Bryan Cranston) and some bloodthirsty Apaches.  This leads to Carter being trapped in the cave and transported to Barsoom, which is what the inhabitants of that planet call Mars.

The bewildered Carter is captured by Tars Tarkus (Willem Dafoe) the Jeddak (king) of the Tharks, the fierce Green Warriors of Barsoom.  Standing some seven feet tall with tusks, and a double torso with four arms, they are the first clue to the bewildered Earthman that he isn’t in Virginia anymore.  But it’s not as if Carter is entirely helpless.  Due to the lesser gravity of Barsoom and his denser bone/muscular structure he has the strength of a hundred men and is able to leap incredible distances.

Meanwhile, over in Helium which is home to the human looking Red Martians, they are realizing that they cannot win their long war with their hereditary enemies, the Zodanga.  Arraignments are made to marry the Princess of Helium, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) to Zodanga’s ruler, Sab Than (Dominic West).

However, Dejah Thoris doesn’t think much of this at all and runs away, an act which leads her to being captured by the Tharks and meeting John Carter.  Once she sees his extraordinary abilities, combined with his exceptional swordsmanship, she sees a way out of her marriage and a way for Helium to win the war.  However, unknown to all, there is a third faction at work in this conflict.  The Holy Therns, led by Matai Shang (Mark Strong) have been secretly manipulating conflict between the various tribes and races of Barsoom for thousands of years for their own hidden purposes.  And they’re not about to let a wild card like John Carter interfere in the plans they have for Barsoom.  Or Earth…

The sheer joy of seeing a major motion picture based on anything written by Edgar Rice Burroughs probably prevents me from seeing any flaws in the movie.  Taylor Kitsch wouldn’t have been my first choice for John Carter but after seeing him I don’t know who else could have played the role so well.  He commits himself fully to the story and the character and there was never a moment he wasn’t convincing.

As Dejah Thoris, Lynn Collins has a lot to live up to as Burroughs described her in the books as being so impossibly beautiful that any real woman would have a hard time fulfilling that description but she does the job admirably.  And her role in the story is fleshed out considerably by having her be a scientist/swordswoman  as well and not just a princess to be rescued.

Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkus and Thomas Haden Church as Tal Hajus, a rival Thark warrior do a superb job of giving the giant green warriors personality but Dominic West’s character could have been a better villain.  He’s little more than the errand boy for the Holy Tharns but West is such a good actor, I’m willing to let it go.

And maybe it’s just my thing, but when a movie costs as much as JOHN CARTER, I appreciate seeing it up on the screen and I certainly did.  This is a big-budget movie that actually does look like a big-budget movie with some really astonishing sets and eye-popping locations.  This is how a larger than life movie with larger than life characters is supposed to look.  Not like a TV movie on steroids.

Bottom line: I liked JOHN CARTER a lot.  It’s a movie made by talented folks who respect the source material and delivered what I was looking for and that’s more than enough for me.  Enjoy.

132 minutes

Rated PG-13


Land of The Lost


Universal Pictures

Directed by Brad Siberling

Produced by Sid and Marty Krofft and Jimmy Miller

Written by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas

Based on the television show: “Land Of The Lost”

Marshall, Will, and Holly
On a routine expedition
Met the greatest earthquake ever known.
High on the rapids
It struck their tiny raft.
And plunged them down a thousand feet below.

To the Land of the Lost.
To the Land of the Lost.
To the Land of the Lost.

That was the theme song that opened every episode of the Saturday morning live action television series “Land Of The Lost” that aired on NBC from 1974 to 1976.  I love the theme song because it comes from a time when TV shows had real theme songs.  A great theme song can tell you everything you need to know about a show even if you’ve never seen a single episode.  Now the theme song for “Land Of The Lost” isn’t as brilliant as the theme song for…oh, “Gilligan’s Island” “Green Acres” or “The Brady Bunch” but it’s awful close.

The theme song is used in the theatrical remake LAND OF THE LOST starring Will Ferrell but to comedic effect.  Which is what most of what was taken seriously in the TV show is used for in the movie: as comedy.

Dr. Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell) is considered a lunatic crackpot by the scientific community.  He claims that the way to replenish the world’s dwindling energy resources is to use time warps to travel to parallel/alternate dimensions and plunder their resources.  To this end he has built a tachyon amplifier to do this but he’s too discouraged to use the device until he’s visited by Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel) who was kicked out of Cambridge for believing in Marshall’s crackpot theories.  Holly rekindles his scientific fire and they set off to a remote part of the desert where Marshall thinks he can use his device to open a time portal.  They hire fireworks salesman Will Stanton (Danny McBride) to take them into a cave that is a really crappy amusement park river ride but Marshall’s gehooka indicates that tachyon particles there are very intense.  They are so intense that a time portal is indeed opened and…well, go back to the top of this review and sing the theme song.

Once in the Land Of The Lost, the trio encounter characters such as Grumpy, a pissed off TRex with a surprisingly high IQ.  Chaka, a fur covered missing link. And of course, The Sleestak, humanoid lizard men who were more of a threat in the television show than they are here.

But that’s because LAND OF THE LOST is played strictly for laughs but it’s not mean-spirited as if the actors and the director are having fun at the expense of the audience and basically saying behind our backs how silly and stupid we are for watching this.  They genuinely appear to be having a good time, especially Anna Friel who is the only cast member who pretty much plays her role straight, leaving the comedy up to her male co-stars.  I liked how once the trio arrive in the Land Of The Lost she wears her hair in pigtails which I took to be a homage to Kathy Coleman, the original Holly.

Danny McBride was pretty good as Will who is freaked out that Dr. Marshall and Holly aren’t freaked out by being in a bizarre alternate world on a vast desert that looks as if it were designed by Salvadore Dali.  And Will Ferrell’s Dr. Rick Marshall is a scientist who would be right at home hanging out with the Ghostbusters or Dr. Walter Bishop.  I suspect that Will Ferrell did this movie mostly a way to break out from the string of sports themed comedies that have put much loot in his bank account.  Even though I’m not a big Will Ferrell fan as I think of him as Chevy Chase Lite I liked him in this one.  I’ve read that he was a major fan of the television show and I can see that.  He’s having fun with the material but he never makes fun of it.

I was disappointed by The Sleestak who just stumble and lurch around and never really present a danger to the humans.  In fact, there’s never a moment in the movie where I was convinced anybody was in any real danger, even when they were being chased all over the jungle by Grumpy.  And there’s a villain here who plans on conquering The Earth but he’s so ineffective that again, I never for a moment thought that he’d be able to pull off his world-conquering scheme.

As for the comedy…if you’ve seen the trailer then you’ve seen the funniest parts of the movie, trust me.  There was never any real gut-bustingly hilarious moments and the movie is more amusing than anything else.  If you’re a Will Ferrell fan you’ll probably get more out of LAND OF THE LOST than I did.  Not that it’s a bad movie, mind you.  It’s perfectly satisfying chewing gum for the mind and like chewing gum it loses its flavor after a while but that’s okay.  You enjoyed the flavor while it was there.

93 minutes

Rated PG-13

The Core

Paramount Pictures

Directed by Jon Amiel
Produced by Sean Bailey, David Foster and Cooper Layne
Written by Cooper Layne and John Rogers

I suppose that in order to properly appreciate a movie like THE CORE one would have to have been brought up on movies like 1966’s “Fantastic Voyage” in which a team of scientists/surgeons and their submarine are miniaturized and inserted into a human body in order to perform brain surgery from the inside. Or 1965’s “Crack In The World” where a project to tap into Earth’s geothermal energy goes wrong and a massive crack threatens to split The Earth in two as a team of scientists chase it around the world, trying to halt it. Or 1961’s “Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea” where a nuclear submarine has to race time to fire a missile in the right place at the right time to save the world from being fried by The Van Allen radiation belt which is slowly cooking the earth.

THE CORE is a movie that makes science geeks fall out laughing because there’s not a single so called ‘scientific’ fact in it that makes a lick of sense. But while I was watching it I didn’t care one bit. Because THE CORE took me back to a time when I was kid and science fiction movies meant I was going to watch an extraordinary adventure that took me away from my Bed-Stuy neighborhood for a couple of hours and took me to a world where scientists ruled and had outrageous adventures on an everyday basis. They were not only the smartest guys in the room they were the bravest and the ballsiest. They went to the stars. To other dimensions. To the past and the future. They saved the world. They saved their friends and family. And I dearly wished I could be one of them.

Strange things are happening. Thirty people in Boston all drop dead at the same time in a 10-block radius. Pigeons in London’s Trafalgar Square lose their sense of navigation and go berserk, smashing into buildings and terrorizing people as they fly about in a frenzy. The space shuttle Endeavor has to crash land in the middle of Los Angeles because somehow their navigational beacon put them down in the wrong place. It’s only due to the exceptional navigational skills of Major Rebecca Childs (Hilary Swank) that the crew survives and the shuttle comes down in a relatively safe place.

Dr. Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) has an idea what is wrong and his research is confirmed by Dr. Conrad Zimsky (Stanley Tucci) and they both present it to General Purcell (Richard Jenkins): The molten core of The Earth has stopped rotating. As a result the electromagnetic field of the planet is destabilizing and without it, Earth will be a dead planet within a year. There’s maybe only one chance: detonate a series of nuclear bombs in the core to ‘jump start’ the molten core and set it to rotating again. But how can they journey to the center of the earth itself in time?

The answer lies with Dr. Ed ‘Brazz’ Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo) who had his research stolen by Zimsky 20 years ago.  Since then he has been living out in the desert, working on his life’s dream: a ship capable of traveling through the earth utilizing a sonic laser. Brazz is given a blank check by General Purcell to build his ship and a team is assembled: Dr. Keyes, Dr. Zimsky, Dr. Brazzelton along with nuclear weapons specialist Dr. Serge Leveque (Tcheky Karyo) and to pilot the craft: Major Childs and Commander Robert Iverson (Bruce Greenwood). On the surface their support team will be General Purcell, Flight Commander Talma ‘Stick’ Stickney (Alfre Woodard) and the real wild card in the deck…a computer hacker called The Rat (DJ Qualls) who crippled the FBI’s database a year previously but has taken this job to stay out of jail. Rat’s job is to ‘hack the planet’ and monitor/obfuscate/control the flow of information on The Internet so that the rest of the world doesn’t find out it’s only got a year to live or about the mission to restart the world. The ship is built and the crew embarks on their mission inside The Earth itself to reach and restart the molten core before the world is devastated.

There is absolutely no point in trying to pretend the science of THE CORE is anything like the science we know. Hell, ‘Star Trek’ technobabble makes more sense. But y’know what? It’s so much fun watching actors like Aaron Eckhart, Tcheky Karyo, Stanley Tucci and Delroy Lindo act as if it does I didn’t care. Take for instance when Dr. Brazzelton demonstrates the miracle metal his ship is made of: it gets stronger the more pressure is applied to it and actually draws power from heat. He’s asked what it’s called and Delroy Lindo replies with a straight face: “I call it Unobtanium” How could you not love a movie that has a miracle metal called Unobtanium?

Once the mission is underway the team has to overcome a score of natural threats inside the planet itself such as lava rivers, freefall in a canyon of crystal and believe it or not, a diamond storm. In the meantime, as they travel deeper into The Earth, violent lightning storms devastate Rome and microwaves boil San Francisco. And as the team of the terranaut ship ‘Virgil’ die one by one in what is beginning to look more and more like a doomed mission, on the surface Stick and Rat have to deal with another threat…one with the sinister name of ‘Destini’…

I really can’t see how anybody wouldn’t love THE CORE unless you’re really a science geek who can’t stand anybody monkeying with your beloved rules of physics.  I remember reading an article way back when I was a kid where Isaac Asimov wrote the novelization for “Fantastic Voyage” even though he believed that miniaturization was impossible.  His reason?: “Hey, it’s a good story.” And that’s what THE CORE is. It’s impossible but it’s a good story.

The performances by all concerned are quite good. Especially Hilary Swank who looks like what I figure a real life female Air Force officer would look and behave like rather than a big-breasted bimbo playing dress-up. Delroy Lindo is also quite good as the eccentric inventor of the miracle ship that travels inside the earth. As improbable as the thing may sound, the way Mr. Lindo explains how it works you may be tempted to climb into the thing yourself just for the ride. I also liked Aaron Eckhart as Resident Brilliant Guy who can come up with any solution for any problem. Fans of Alfre Woodard are going to be disappointed as she really doesn’t have a lot to do except stay on the surface and look worried. DJ Qualls has a really nice bit where he uses a comb, the tinfoil wrapper from a stick of chewing gum and gives Eckhart’s character unlimited long distance on his cell phone. And I really liked how the scientists didn’t all immediately jump to be heroes and risk their lives. They’re all men of action but men of thought as well.

THE CORE doesn’t have a typical bad guy. It’s more of a race against time where the characters have to fight against the very elements. I suppose it could be compared to ‘Armageddon’ in a way but it’s a lot better than that Michael Bay noise-fest. The characters in THE CORE are much more likeable and when they die we feel it. It’s edge of your seat stuff that’s nothing but mad fun.  Highly recommended for a Saturday afternoon.

135 minutes

Quigley Down Under


Directed by Simon Wincer

Produced by Stanley O’Toole and Alexandra Rose

Written by John Hill

Original Music by Basil Poledouris

I think it’s really a damn shame that Tom Selleck never became as big a movie star as I think he solidly deserved to be. He got jerked out of playing Indiana Jones and despite whatever you may have heard from that friend of yours who knows all about movies or that other friend who claims he knows the “real story” Tom Selleck was the first choice of both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg for Indiana Jones.

Tom Selleck has had a solid movie career, though and he did some really good stuff that I liked a lot. He got to do a couple of 1930’s adventure films such as “Lassiter” with Jane Seymour in which he played a cat burglar operating in London just before WWII and “High Road To China” where he played a boozy barnstorming pilot helping Bess Armstrong find her father who’s been kidnapped by a Chinese warlord. He also did more than his share of westerns and if your cable/satellite provider carries TNT then you know what I’m talking about. During the 90’s it seemed like every other week there was a new western starring Tom Selleck featured on that station. But he did one major feature western that has gone seriously unnoticed: QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER.

Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) is a cowboy/sharpshooter from America who travels to Australia with his trusty weapon: a modified 1847 Sharps Buffalo Rifle with which he can hit a man from 1200 yards away. That may not sound impressive but as a way of reference let’s put it this way: the modern football field is 100 yards long. You do the math. Quigley’s been hired by a wealthy and powerful landowner, Elliot Marston (Alan Rickman) for a job. He doesn’t say what the job is but he’ll pay Quigley 50 dollars in gold just to make the three-month trip to his ranch just to hear him out. Quigley finds Marston to be a refined gentleman obsessed with The American West. He even has a matched pair of Navy Colts that he’s become expert at using. Marston is also a sadistic racist who wants Quigley to use his sharpshooting skills to help in cutting down the Outback aborigines. Quigley’s response to this job offer is to kick Marston’s ass.

He would have been much better off just saying no and going on back home. He’s beaten half to death, taken out to the unforgiving Australia desert and dumped along with Crazy Cora (Laura San Giacomo) a woman Quigley has befriended. For some reason Crazy Cora thinks that Quigley is her husband Roy and part of the fun of the movie is that we’re never sure exactly how crazy Crazy Cora really is as even Quigley says to her at one point: “The scary thing is that from time to time you actually make sense.” Quigley and Cora are rescued by aborigines and that sets up the second half of the movie as Quigley goes after Marston and in the process becomes a legend among the aborigines known as ‘The Spirit Warrior’. He also learns the tragic history of Crazy Cora and why she became crazy.

QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER is rarely mentioned when even western fans get together and I don’t know why. It’s got Tom Selleck who is one of the few modern actors who actually looks as if he belongs in The Old West. He’s a worthy successor to Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea, both of who would have slid into this role like you slide into your favorite jeans. He’s tough when he has to be in his scenes with Alan Rickman and tender in his scenes with Laura San Giacomo. Selleck has studied his westerns and he knows that in a role like this less is more. He says only what he has to say and no more. It’s a great old school performance.

Laura San Giacomo is totally terrific. She has to carry the load of being the only comic relief in the movie and she does it by creating a character that has us constantly wondering: “is she really crazy or just playing crazy?” Even covered in dirt she’s mad sexy and she has two really great scenes: one where she softly tells Quigley what happened to make her crazy and the other is where she spends a horrifying night defending an aborigine baby from a pack of dingos.

Alan Rickman is wonderful as Elliot Marston and if you expect to see him playing Hans Gruber In A Western, think again. Rickman’s too damn good for that. Marston’s a separate bad guy and he and Quigley make for wonderfully matched opponents. It helps that Rickman and Selleck look as if they’re having just as much fun going up against each other as Rickman and Willis did.

What else can I mention? Oh, yes…the simply magnificent score by Basil Poledouris. If you don’t know the work of this master then shame on you. And for QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER he composed one the most heroic, rousing scores I’ve ever heard for a movie. The location work is beautiful and really gives you a sense of how big Australia is. There’s a scene where Quigley has been already traveling four days to get to Marston’s and asks one of Marston’s men when will they get to his ranch and the man responds: “You’ve been on it for two days.” The look on Quigley’s face says it all. I would have liked to see more of the aborigine way of life but hey, the small bits we do see where they teach Quigley how to find water in the desert and how he teaches them how to lasso are fun and even charming.

So should you see QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER? I give thee a resounding “YES”. If you’re a fan of Tom Selleck in particular or westerns in general then you really ought to do yourself a favor and see this one. It’s got a solid story, some terrific action sequences and strong acting. QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER is a movie that belongs in the library of every movie fan.

119 minutes