300: Rise Of An Empire


Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures

Directed by Noam Murro

Produced by Zack Snyder, Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Deborah Snyder and Bernie Goldmann

Screenplay by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad

Based on “Xerxes” an unpublished graphic novel by Frank Miller

The story goes that Warner Brothers executives, delighted with the open weekend box office numbers of “300” immediately wanted a sequel.  Apparently they hadn’t taken the time to watch their own movie. It’s taken them eight years to figure out how to do a sequel to that movie and to give the filmmakers credit, they haven’t simply reshuffled elements around from the first movie. There’s an honest effort here to give us new characters in a new situation but 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE still didn’t give me that same feeling I had when I first saw “300”. I fell so much in love with that movie I wanted to marry it and take it home to meet my mother.

But that rush of adrenaline I got when I saw “300” came mainly from the visuals which were unlike anything I had seen before in movies. That’s because back in 2007 when”300” was released, the digital backlot technology/method of filming movies was still fresh and eye-popping. The only other movies I had seen using that technology were “Sin City” and “Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow”. Since then we’ve had  “Speed Racer” “The Spirit” “Avatar” “Immortals” and half a dozen other movies utilizing digital backlot techniques. So my eyes have become accustomed to the look over the years. That’s not to say there aren’t some incredible visuals in 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE. There are. It’s the story that doesn’t match the visuals.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE did intrigue me at the start in that this isn’t your ordinary sequel or prequel. It tells a story that tells of events taking place before, during and after “300” It starts off with Gorgo, Queen of Sparta (Lena Headey) narrating to an army of Spartan warriors the story of how the war between Persia and Greece began, throwing in the origin of the Persian god king Xerxes I (Rodrigo Santoro) as a bonus. We’re also introduced to Artemisia (Eva Green) who is quite literally the woman that made Xerxes the god king he is now. She’s also the commander of his 1000 ship fleet and the best thing about the movie. More on that later.

300-A-Ascensao-de-Um-Imperio-24Nov2013-15Themistocles of Athens (Sullivan Stapleton) is attempting to unite Greece’s squabbling city states in order to present a unified nation to fight Persia but has no luck. The politics of all this is murky at best and really just gets in the way of what the movie wants to do: get to the numerous blood-saturated CGI sea battles that are the real heart of the movie. And when I say blood-saturated, I mean it. When somebody gets slashed with a sword, that worthy just doesn’t bleed. A geyser of blood throws a sheet of blood all over the screen. There’s a nice scene where Themistocles goes to ask Queen Gorgo for Sparta’s help which from the dialog I guess takes place right after Leonidas (Gerard Butler in footage from “300 is seen here and there during the movie) has gone with his 300 to hold the Persians at The Hot Gates. Rebuffed by Queen Gorgo (which is a pretty mild way of putting it.) Themistocles determines to take his 200 ships and handful of desperate warriors and go meet the Persians at sea.

300-Rise-of-an-Empire-03jan2013-03And that’s about all the set-up you need in order to watch the movie. Everything after that is bloody carnage. Halfway through the movie it seems to have forgotten that Queen Gorgo is supposed to be telling the story as now we’re seeing events and hearing dialog that she couldn’t possibly know about. And you should be warned that the violence in 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is not the stylized, balletic action of “300” In this one it’s much more brutal and savage and I can’t remember the last movie where I’ve seen so many heads and limbs chopped off. In one scene Artemisia is carrying bunches of severed heads by the hair as if they were Pathmark shopping bags.

And that brings me to the best thing about the movie: Eva Green. Whenever she’s not on screen you’ll be eagerly waiting for her to come back because Artemisia is the best character in the movie. She’s far more intelligent, formidable, skilled and ambitious than anybody else and I’m willing to bet that like me, by the time you get to the halfway point you’ll be wondering why the whole movie wasn’t about her. She’s the kind of bad guy you secretly root for; the one that you hope ends up winning in the end. In fact, if 300: RISE ON AN EMPIRE had Artemisia and Queen Gorgo going at it, it would have been an immensely more interesting clash of characters as Sullivan Stapleton’s Themistocles is such a block of wood it’s excruciating. He spends most of the movie making speeches about honor and loyalty and loving your family and land that sound uncomfortably similar to the ones Leonidas made but Stapleton doesn’t even come close to the white hot energy Gerard Butler had. In fact, the only scene where Stapleton’s character comes alive is in a sex scene with Artemisia that turns into an attempted rape but we’re not really sure who’s raping who here.

300: BATTLE OF ARTEMESIUMSo should you see 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE? If you saw and liked “300” this is pretty much more of the same, only at sea and far bloodier and violent. I’d say try and catch a matinee if you can so this way you won’t feel robbed. It’s got spectacular visuals and that equally spectacular Eva Green performance going for it in its favor so enjoy.

Rated R

102 Minutes

Rock & Rule



Directed by Clive A. Smith

Produced by Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert

Screenplay by John Halfpenny and Peter Sauder

Back in the 1980’s there were three notable animated movies that hit the theaters. Well, actually two of them as the movie we’re talking about now, ROCK & RULE never had a real American theatrical run. Reportedly the American distributor, MGM, really didn’t care for the movie at all and had zero interest in any kind of promotion for it. They had it badly recut and some voices re-dubbed, threw it into theaters for about a minute and that was it. Most people like me saw ROCK & RULE either on HBO or Showtime which usually ran it late night on Fridays and Saturdays. But what ROCK & RULE had in common with “American Pop” and “Heavy Metal” was the heavy marketing of their soundtracks. In fact, the rock soundtracks of “Heavy Metal” and ROCK & RULE was blatantly the selling point of both of those movies and not the story. But it’s not hard to see why. ROCK & RULE features the vocal talents of and songs by Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Earth, Wind & Fire so why not use them to sell your movie?

I watched the Canadian version on YouTube which Wikipedia tells me has a completely different opening narration from the American version. The Canadian narration neglects to inform viewers that there was a nuclear holocaust and now the world is inhabited by mutated humanoid dogs, cats and rats. Which isn’t a good thing because 90% of the cast goes through the movies either with no noses at all or they’re shaped like bananas so if you have no knowledge of how this world got this way, you’re liable to watch the movie wondering what’s wrong with everybody’s noses. And actually there’s really no good reason I could see for the filmmakers to throw that in as all the characters act like humans and display none of the characteristics of the animals they’re supposed to be mutated from. Except for Mylar (Martin Lavut) the sleazy owner of a bar who is quite obviously a rat.

Mok (Don Francks/ singing voice by Lou Reed & Iggy Pop) is the last great mega-star rock and roller in the world. Mok’s overwhelming artistic desire is to craft a final performance that will make his career immortal. To accomplish this he has created The Armageddon Key, a musical incantation disguised as a song that will open a portal to another dimension and allow a nightmarish demon of staggering power entry to Earth. The last thing Mok needs is a very special voice to sing his apocalyptic song.


Mok discovers Angel ( Susan Roman/singing voice by Debbie Harry) who is the keyboardist in a four-man rock band. The leader of the band, Omar (Greg Salata/singing voice by Robin Zander) cares only about being a rock star, even at the expense of keeping Angel down. He’s got a good voice but Angel has a great one and Mok intends to use it.  Mok makes for an entertaining villain as he acts more like a Marvel Comics or James Bond supervillain than an aging rock star. One enjoyable scene shows that part of his elaborate mansion can detach from the rest of the building and fly by means of an inflatable blimp. Mok also employs advanced technology to make it seem as if he has magical abilities, hence his nickname of “The Magic Man”


Mok is certainly more enjoyable to watch than the guy who we’re supposed to root for, Omar. He’s a spoiled man-child who is solely motivated to go to Nuke Yawk not to save Angel from Mok’s dastardly clutches but because he’s pissed off that Mok wants to make Angel a star and not him. Omar’s sidekicks, Dizzy and Stretch are boring characters who contribute nothing to the story except tired comedy relief but they’re not as bad as Mok’s trio of roller-skating goons, the Schlepper Brothers who are nowhere near as funny as the filmmakers obviously thought they were.

I wish I could say that the movie has a kickass soundtrack to make up for its shortcomings but outside of Lou Reed’s “My Name Is Mok” Debbie Harry’s “Angel’s Song” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Dance Dance Dance” there aren’t any other songs I can say I enjoyed or found worthy of toe-tapping.

The animation itself is quite good and easy on the eye. It’s very much like Ralph Bakshi’s style of animation. In fact, the movie looks so much like a Bakshi movie that supposedly there were bootleg VHS tapes sold at comic book conventions that did have Ralph Bakshi named as director.

So should you see ROCK & RULE? If you’re an animation fan I would say so. ROCK & RULE has attained a legendary status due to its troubled production history and it becoming a cult movie thanks to HBO and Showtime. It’s nowhere near the masterpiece that some people I know claim it is but neither is it a movie that deserved the throwaway treatment it received from MGM.  It is available on DVD and a Blu-Ray edition was released in 2010. The Canadian version used to be available on YouTube. I don’t know if it’s still up but it’s worth the search. Enjoy.

497 Movies You Oughta See



Before we get to the actual list I pray you to indulge me for a bit as I give you the backstory behind 497 Movies You Oughta See.

Ever since I started writing movie reviews and people were good enough to read and enjoy them they’ve been asking me a question: “I would love to watch more Westerns/Comedies/War Movies/Horror/Whatever but I just don’t know where to start.” It occurred to me that if I drew up a list of movies in various genres that it would be a good starting point for folks to at least dip their toes in a genre they had little or no knowledge of.

The first incarnation of this list was “250 Movies You Oughta See” that I pretty much drew up on my own. There were some folks who put in their suggestion here and there but most of it was me. And that list I drew up two or three years ago. Since then we’ve seen a lot of movies come out. It occurred to me that it was time that I revised the list dramatically.

And this time I decided that I would open it up and ask members of the BETTER IN THE DARK Facebook group for their input. And boy, did I get it. But I’m really glad I did. I got a lot of movies I wouldn’t have even thought of. And with such a wide and diverse group I was confident I would get an equally wide and diverse range of movies. Which is exactly what I got.

Couple of things. I want to stress that this is not and I repeat not a “Best Movies” list. It’s a “Oughta See” List. Which simply means that these are movies that I and others think you Oughta See because we think they’re pretty damn good movies. But we’re not saying that they’re the best in a given genre so let’s get that out of the way and done.

And it will do no good for you to jump up and down screaming that your favorite Science Fiction or Crime Movies isn’t here. The first and foremost purpose of this list is for fun. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive list of every single movie in every single genre. The best way I would hope that you guys use this list is to scan it and jot down the names of movies that sound good or you’ve been planning to see or that you’ve heard of from friends or movies you just want to take a chance on watching. Okay?

And now, here’s where I thank those BiTD friends who helped me put together this list. And here they are:

Mark Bousquet. Tobias Christopher. Zoe Collins. Kelen Conley. James Dye. Gordon Dymowski. Michael Franzoni. Erik Fromme. Lucas Garrett Don Gates. Orenthal Hawkins. James Hickson. Lonni Susan Holland. Chris Johnson. Matthew Laub. JD Mathis. Tom Moses. Chris Munn. David Olfers. Adam Orchekowski. David A. Pascarella. Arthur Ratnick. Jeffrey Rist. Andrew Salmon. Kenneth Smith. Parker G. Stanfield. Sean Taylor.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you all for your time and your suggestions. Some of them were phenomenal. Some were downright dangerous. Others provocative and while still others hilarious. But all are appreciated and I don’t take your participation lightly.

I have run my mouth sufficiently so now it’s time to present the list at last. Enjoy and I hope that this list will enable you to enjoy movies that you would not otherwise have even heard of. Good night and God Bless.



9 TO 5

A Christmas Story


Amazon Women On The Moon

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Animal House

Arsenic And Old Lace


Better Off Dead

Blazing Saddles


Cannonball Run


Clerks II


Down Periscope


Johnny Dangerously

Midnight Run

Mother, Jugs & Speed

Murder By Death

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

Office Space



South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

Smokey and The Bandit


The Blues Brothers

The Bride Came C.O.D.

The Kentucky Fried Movie

Trains, Planes & Automobiles

Tropic Thunder


Young Frankenstein


A Clockwork Orange

A Face in The Crowd

A Raisin in The Sun

As Good As It Gets



Black Narcissus

Boogie Nights


Citizen Kane

Germany Year Zero



Imitation of Life


Legends of The Fall


Master & Commander

Nothing But A Man

On The Beach

Raging Bull


Schindler’s List

Seven Samurai

Shawshank Redemption


Taxi Driver

The Bad and The Beautiful

The Grapes of Wrath

The Lion In Winter

The Ten Commandments

The Third Man


To Have and Have Not

To Sir, With Love


Twelve Angry Men (both versions)

Gone With The Wind

Cape Fear (both versions)

Falling Down




Jason And The Argonauts



Star Wars

The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen

The Empire Strikes Back

The Green Pastures

The Neverending Story

The Princess Bride

The Seventh Seal

The Sword And The Sorcerer

The Thief Of Bagdad (1940)

The Wizard of Oz

Time Bandits

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)


A League of Their Own

Brian’s Song

Cool Runnings

Eight Men Out

Field of Dreams

Friday Night Lights

He Got Game

Hoop Dreams


Necessary Roughness

Pride Of The Yankees

Remember The Titans



The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars And Motor Kings

The Sandlot

The Wrestler

When We Were Kings

White Men Can’t Jump


An Angel At My Table

Bright Star


Dirty Dancing

Fried Green Tomatoes

He’s Just Not That Into You

How Stella Got Her Groove Back

How To Marry A Millionaire

Love Story

Pretty Woman

Sense and Sensibility

Spice World

Steel Magnolias

Terms of Endearment

Thelma & Louise

The Bridges of Madison County

The English Patient

The First Wives Club

The Notebook

The Piano

The Proposal

The Red Shoes

Under A Tuscany Sun

The Way We Were

Waiting to Exhale

What Women Want

When Harry Met Sally


12 Monkeys

2001: A Space Odyssey

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence


Children Of Men

Close Encounters of The Third Kind

Back To The Future Trilogy

Blade Runner

Dark City

Dr. Cyclops

Enemy Mine


Forbidden Planet


La Jetee



Planet of The Apes



Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan


Soylent Green

The Blob (both versions)

The Bride of Frankenstein

The Fountain




48 Hours


All Through The Night

Beverly Hills Cop

Big Trouble In Little China

Die Hard Series

Dr. No

Enter The Dragon


Escape From New York

Indiana Jones Series

Jurassic Park

Lethal Weapon Series

King Kong (Original & Peter Jackson remake)

Mad Max

National Treasure

Passenger 57


Raiders of The Lost Ark


Silver Streak

Tango & Cash

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

The 13th Warrior

The Fifth Element

The Hidden Fortress

The Last Dragon

The Road Warrior

The Terminator


3:10 To Yuma (both versions)


Bend In The River

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid

Cat Ballou

Dead Man

Duel at Diablo

El Dorado

Forty Guns


High Noon

Lonesome Dove

My Name Is Nobody

Once Upon A Time In The West

Open Range

Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid

Quigley Down Under

Ride The High Country

Rio Bravo



The Angel and The Badman

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

The Magnificent Seven

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Missouri Breaks

The Outlaw

The Professionals

The Quick And The Dead

The Searchers

Valdez Is Coming

Vera Cruz

The Virginian

The War Wagon

The Wild Bunch

The Wrath of God

Two Mules For Sister Sarah


True Grit




A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

A Hard Day’s Night

Cabin In The Sky






Guys And Dolls



Jailhouse Rock

How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

Jesus Christ, Superstar

Little Shop of Horrors

Mamma Mia

Moulin Rouge

Pennies From Heaven

Showboat (1936)

Singin’ In the Rain

South Pacific

The Apple

The Music Man

The Sound of Music

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg



West Side Story

The Wiz


Apocalypse Now Redux

Band of Brothers

Blackhawk Down

Fixed Bayonets!

Full Metal Jacket

Hamburger Hill

Inglourious Basterds

Kelly’s Heroes

Letters From Iwo Jima


Paths of Glory


Red Tails

Saving Private Ryan

The Big Red One

The Bridge Over The River Kwai

The Dirty Dozen

The Hurt Locker

The Steel Helmet

The Thin Red Line

Three Kings

Tuskegee Airmen

We Were Soldiers

Where Eagles Dare


American Werewolf in London

Angel Heart

Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Cabin In The Woods



Carnival of Souls

Dawn of The Dead

Demon Seed

Event Horizon


House on Haunted Hill (1959)


Let’s Scare Jessica To Death

Night of The Hunter

Night of The Living Dead

Nightmare on Elm Street




Stir of Echoes


The Abominable Dr. Phibes

The Beyond

The Birds

The Black Cat

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Changeling

The Crazies (both versions)

The Exorcist

The Haunting (1963)

The Invisible Man

The Island of Lost Souls

The Last Man on Earth

The Thing (both versions)

Trick ‘R Treat


Battle Royale

Barton Fink

Big Fish

Blue Velvet

Buckaroo Banzai


City of Lost Children


Day Watch


Donnie Darko

Edward Scissorhands



Hudson Hawk

Ichi The Killer



Liquid Sky

Miracle Mile

Mulholland Drive

Naked Lunch

Night Watch


Repo Man

Six String Samurai

Speed Racer

The Big Lebowski

The Cell

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

The Point

The Thirteenth Floor

Time Bandits


Who Framed Roger Rabbit?


A Rage In Harlem

Bonnie & Clyde

Charlie Varrick

Cotton Comes To Harlem


Double Indemnity

Donnie Brasco


Ghost Dog: Way of The Samurai



High Sierra


Jackie Brown

King of New York

L.A. Confidential

Last Man Standing

Little Caesar


Miller’s Crossing

New Jack City

Ocean’s Eleven (both versions)

Once Upon A Time In America

Pickup on South Street

Pulp Fiction

Scarface (both versions)

Shadow of a Doubt


Silence of The Lambs

Sin City

The Big Sleep

The Conversation

The Departed

The Godfather Trilogy

The Italian Job

The Maltese Falcon

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

The Thin Man

The Third Man

The Usual Suspects

Touch of Evil



Batman (1969)

Batman (1989)

Batman Returns

Batman: Mask of The Phantasm

Batman Trilogy


Blade 2

Captain America: The First Avenger


Danger: Diabolik

Dick Tracy

Doctor Strange



Hellboy and The Golden Army


Incredible Hulk

Iron Man

Iron Man 2

Meteor Man

Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins

Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow

Sky High


Spider-Man 2


Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

The Avengers

The Incredibles

The Phantom

The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941 serial)

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl

The Rocketeer

The Shadow



V For Vendetta



X-Men 2

X-Men: First Class

X-Men Origins: Wolverine


A Boy Named Charlie Brown


American Pop


Beauty and The Beast

Chicken Run

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

Cool World

Despicable Me


Fantastic Planet

Finding Nemo

Fire & Ice

Ghost In The Shell

Grave of The Fireflies

Happy Feet

Heavy Metal

How To Train Your Dragon

Iron Giant

Laputa: Castle In The Sky

Lilo And Stitch


Princess Mononoke

Rock and Rule

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

Spirited Away



The Aristocats

The Castle of Cagliostro

The Jungle Book

The Lion King

The Triplets of Belleville

The Tune

Toy Story

Toy Story 3


Waking Life




Hunt For Red October

In Like Flint

North by Northwest


The Good Shepard

The James Bond Series

The Jason Bourne Trilogy

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

The Professional


Safe House



Spy Game

Three Days of The Condor


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




Universal Pictures

Directed by Tarsem Singh

Produced by Mark Canton and Ryan Kavanaugh

Written by Vlas Parlapanides and Charley Parlapanides

When I first saw “The Cell” way back in 2000 I knew right there and then that Tarsem Singh was a director I’d be watching.  When so many directors are content to offer us product, Tarsem Singh goes way out there in order to give us movies that are visual treats.  “The Cell” is perhaps the most original serial killer movie I’ve ever seen in terms of story and visuals.  I wasn’t as excited with his second feature, “The Fall”.  Oh, it’s gorgeous to look at and at times even eye-popping but the story is muddled and while watching it I wished mightily that Tarsem had done it as a straight-up adventure fantasy and left the real world stuff for another movie.  It’s worth watching, believe me.  But it’s an effort to try and marry up two totally different movies into one and that trick rarely works.

So where does IMMORTALS stand when placed up against this director’s other two movies?  I still say that “The Cell” is his best movie and “The Fall” his poorest so I guess that leaves IMMORTALS in the middle.  It’s as outrageously visual as those other movies and indeed, I’d recommend the movie solely on that basis.  But I gotta be honest and tell you that the story could use work.  IMMORTALS is a very confused movie as it flip-flops back and forth because it can’t make up it’s mind if it wants to be “300” or 2010’s “Clash of The Titans”

In ancient Greece, the ruthless and powerful King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) runs amuck.  He’s looting, killing, pillaging, raping and generally carrying on cranky in his quest to find The Epirus Bow.  Once wielded by Ares himself, The Epirus Bow is the only thing that can release The Titans from their imprisonment deep in the bowels of Mount Tartarus.  Now if The Titans are released, that is going to mean very bad things not only for humanity but for The Gods of Olympus.  To put it mildly.

Zeus (Luke Evans) the King of The Gods of Olympus forbids his fellow gods to interfere, decreeing that the humans must be allowed to exercise free will and settle this matter themselves.  That’s all well and good and noble, Zeus’ daughter Athena (Isabel Lucas) says wisely.  And just as wisely she points out that it’s their immortal asses The Titans are gonna come for when they get free.

But Zeus has placed his faith in Theseus (Henry Cavill) a humble peasant who nonetheless demonstrates astounding fighting skills that would wring tears of envy from a Spartan.  Theseus has no belief or faith in the gods and would rather be left alone and not get involved.  But fate has other plans for him and soon, Theseus finds himself on a quest to find The Epirus Bow for himself, joined by the Oracle Phaedra (Frieda Pinto) and the wily master thief Stavros (Stephen Dorff).

I can’t stress enough how amazing the movie looks.  I’d love to see what Tarsem could do with a movie based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric or Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser.  And Tarsem does a great job of swiping Zack Snyder’s style of directing fight scenes.  There’s a scene where Theseus is trying to rescue his mother by cutting his way through a bunch of soldiers who apparently were tired of living and if I didn’t know I was watching IMMORTALS I’d have sworn it was a scene from “300” And there’s a kick-ass throwdown between The Olympians and The Titans that is simply astounding.  There just isn’t any other word for it.

That’s the good stuff.  The bad? We’ve got big long gaps between the awesome fight scenes and those are scenes that are way too serious for this material.  Let’s be honest here: IMMORTALS at its core is a 1950’s Italian sword-and-sandal epic on CGI steroids.  And only Stephen Dorff seems to realize that’s what it is and acts accordingly.  He’s nothing but fun every time he’s on screen.  Mickey Rourke is also fun but in a different way.  I’m convinced he was channeling Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now” He’s got several scenes where he’s sitting in shadow, delivering these baffling speeches about destiny and legend and leaving his footprint on the world.  I’m convinced that his army wears masks all the time so that the confused looks on their faces won’t give them away and incur Hyperion’s wrath.  But still, he’s Mickey Rourke and I wouldn’t have missed seeing him in a fantasy adventure movie for all the sugar in Cuba.

What else?  Henry Cavill reminded me a lot of Sam Worthington in 2010’s “Clash of The Titans” in that he looks and acts appropriately heroic as he’s supposed to.  As his Oracle, Frieda Pinto is drop-dead gorgeous.  But can she act? you ask.  You can keep on asking.  I dunno.  She’s drop-dead gorgeous, I toldja.  I quite enjoyed Luke Evans as Zeus even though his wardrobe leaves a lot to be desired.  Say what you want about Liam Neeson’s sparkly armor, as least he knew how to dress like the King of The Gods.  Still, Luke Evans and Isabel Lucas provided me with some of the movie’s best scenes.

So should you see IMMORTALS?  It depends. I hesitate to recommend a movie simply on it’s visuals but that is the strongest aspect of IMMORTALS.  And those visuals are best enjoyed on a movie screen.  However, if you’ve got one of those wall sized flatscreens, it should look amazing on Blu-Ray. I recently watched it on Netflix as it’s currently available for streaming and it still looked gorgeous.   But however you see it, IMMORTALS is worth seeing because it’s the vision of a truly talented director with a remarkable style of his own.  One worth nurturing and supporting.

110 minutes

Rated R



Walt Disney

Directed by Melanie Mayron

Written by Mark S. Kaufman

Produced by Joan Van Horn

There is one reason and one reason only I would even consider watching a movie like TOOTHLESS and the reason is Kirstie Alley. I’ve been a big fan of hers ever since “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and “Cheers” In fact, I didn’t start watching “Cheers” until Kirstie Alley joined the cast as I think that Shelly Long is such an unfunny and untalented actress that she makes Tanya Roberts look like Katherine Hepburn.  I loved Kirstie Alley in her short lived Showtime series “Fat Actress”.  And ever since she burned up the ballroom floor on the 12th Season of “Dancing With The Stars” I’ve become even more enamored with her.  Who really knows why I stopped to watch the movie but all I know is that after ten or fifteen minutes I was hooked as I got really curious to see where this story was going to go and how it was going to get there.

Dr. Katherine Lewis (Kirstie Alley) is a prominent and successful dentist, following in the footsteps of her father who she worshiped and adored.  Katherine’s life should be a rich and happy one, but she has few friends and always feels four or five steps removed from life.  Her best friend Mindy (Melanie Mayron) is constantly after her to get out and meet new people, make new friends, you know the drill.  But Katherine keeps putting off going after the things she really wants out of life until the fateful day when her life runs out and she’s killed in an accident.

Katherine arrives in Limbo, which is a barren, arid desert decorated with surrealistic rock formations.  There are a number of Airstream trailers neatly lined up, all with different art deco signs: ‘Training’ ‘Uniforms’ ‘Offices’ ‘The World’ and Katherine is informed by The Gatekeeper (Yeardley Smith) that she is dead and has to wait for her Supervisor who will explain things to her.  The Supervisor is no-nonsense, by the book disciplinarian named Rogers (Lynn Redgrave) who was probably Sgt. Hartmann’s mom when she was alive.  She informs Katherine that Limbo is a waiting area where newly arrived souls have to perform certain jobs before they can go on to Heaven or Hell.  And Rogers has a job that’s uniquely suited to Katherine: The Tooth Fairy.

This is where the movie started to get interesting because the story started to remind me of a series of books written by Piers Anthony called ‘Incarnations Of Immortality’ which was about how mortals were given various jobs to perform such as Death, Nature, Time, War and how they fulfilled these functions and some of the best moments in TOOTHLESS are those that show how Katherine is trained to be The Tooth Fairy by Raul (Daryl Mitchell) who is in charge of not only training Katherine in how to do her job but also The Easter Bunny and Cupid among others.  Despite his tutelage Katherine never does get the hang of flying or landing (she flies about as well as Ralph Hinkley) but she’s plucky and she sets out to be the best Tooth Fairy she can be.

Things get complicated when Katherine gets involved in the lives of Bobby Jameson (Ross Malinger) and his dad Tom (Dale Midikoff).  Bobby has recently lost his mother and he desperately needs help in how to cope with school, girls and his increasing absent dad and against her better judgment and The Rules Of Limbo, Katherine begins to give him advice.  Of course, being a kid, Bobby tells his friend, who tells two of his friends who tells to of their friends and so on and so on and so on and soon there’s a rash of kids doing everything they can including eating pure sugar and punching each other in the jaw to lose teeth so that The Tooth Fairy can come help them with their problems and it’s not long before Katherine is one overworked fairy.  The Office of Bicuspid Procurement is ecstatic because Katherine’s the most successful Tooth Fairy they’ve had in hundreds of years but her constant flaunting of the rules may earn her a one way trip down in The Hellavator which only has one stop and it’s a hot one.

The performances in this movie aren’t what I would call Academy Award material but they are energetic and they sell the movie.  Kirstie Alley looks as if she’s having a ball, especially in her scenes with Lynn Redgrave where the two of them are trading insults and arguing back and forth.  Daryl Mitchell shares a couple of scenes with Kirstie that have honest emotion behind them, especially the one where he painfully explains to her why he can never leave Limbo.  Eileen Brennan shows up as the Chief Judge of The Judgment Board.  All six members are named Joe and the reason is never explained.  In fact, there are a lot of goofy things in Limbo that are never explained, they’re just thrown in as eye or ear candy and I liked that a lot.  And for the comic book fans, if you ever do see this movie keep an eye out for Helen Slater (“Supergirl”) who has a supporting role as the mother of the girl Bobby has a crush on.

So should you see TOOTHLESS?  That depends on the individual.  There are some who will read this review who wouldn’t go near a Disney movie if you paid them and openly sneer at anybody who does and that’s a shame.  There’s nothing wrong with movies that are made simply to make you feel good after you watch it and that’s the feeling TOOTHLESS left me with.  Not every movie made has to be a masterpiece but it does has to be true to it’s story and it’s characters and be made with an honest commitment that the cast and crew believe in what they’re doing and they do it with imagination, humor and professionalism. TOOTHLESS has all of that.  Put your cynicism and sophistication in the sock drawer for an hour and a half and I think you’ll enjoy it.

92 minutes

And since there’s no trailer for the movie itself, I’m gonna give you Kirstie Alley doing the cha-cha-cha on “Dancing With The Stars”.  Enjoy