22 Apr 2012

Immortals (2011)

For those that read my blog you know that I am a bit of a classicist when it comes to film adaptations. I strongly feel that you can successfully adapt any story to film as long as you stay true to the basic premise of the story.   Maybe a steam punk version of The Wizard of Oz, or more of a horror based story where the cowardly lion is a were-wolf. But you still need Dorothy, her friends and the journey to Oz. If you go off on a crazy tangent and depart from the original premise you create highly expensive dross which no amount of special effects can save.

" I know isnthis version of Spiderman lets make him, like the heir to this vast fortune and when he is a kid his parents are killed in front of him. Yeah! and he can be like 'oh no you didn't, because he is a wise cracking, rap'n hero from Philly. Is Will Smith free?"

For example when I first heard they were remaking Clash of the Titans  I was excited. The original film, was a largely a departure from the original myth, but I had fond nostalgic memories of the 1981 movie. The plasticine monsters and stop motion animation was cool, and while not an accurate depiction of the Perseus myth, the story was very entertaining and and full of the heroic daring that a 10 year old me expected from a hero.  You  have probably read my extended rant on why the remake of  Clash of the Titans was utter garbage.
It was with trepidation then that I heard there was a new movie about the Greek hero Theseus. Mythology and fairy tales exist to this day for a very simple reason, they are good stories.

Here is a synopsis of  Immortals:

When the world was new two factions of immortal beings fought for dominion of earth. The losers were incarcerated under the mountain Tarterous and called Titans. The winners lived in Olympus and were called Gods. King Hyperion (Micky Rourke) bitter with the loss of his family decides that there is no place for gods in his world. He will release the Titans, destroy the gods and conquer Greece. All he needs is to find the lost Epirus bow, and he can set the titans free. But one man has the strength to oppose him, Theseus. Trained by an enegmatic old man (John Hurt) to not just be a skilled warrior but to consider the reasons why men fight, Theseus is being prepared for events that will make him immortalised in legend.

Ensue Grecian hijinks!

It sounds a lot like Clash of the Titans  doesn't it. And the question is, was I disappointed after I watched this movie?

Yes I was!

I was bloody disappointed that I did not see this on the big screen because it was stunning!

The director is Tarsem Singh, Tarsem has a incredible talent for cinematic aesthetic. Tarsem is not the best storyteller which usually drives me mental, but I knew that if he directed Immortals  then it would be a damn pretty film, and it was. Any man that successfully incorporates the art of Dali and Michelangelo in his film has a talent.If fact the whole film is styled in a crazy blend of rennaiscence and surrealsit art. He even choreographed an exciting fight scene in the style of classical Greek art!
Yes the visuals are exciting but what about the story and the actors? Well just quickly I should add that my partner (whose love and knowledge of art history enlightened me about many of the artistic inspirations in the film) was happy to watch it due to the lead being played by the talented Henry Cavill, late of the TV series The Tudors. Cavill give us a solid performance in the role as a Greek hero. And for the ladies he is very easy on the eye. Micky Rourke plays a great  King Hyperion; understated, violent and remorseless.  John Hurt, Stephen Dorf and the  rest of the supporting cast are talented and entertaining. 

But this is a story of Theseus. Are there gods, a Labyrinth and the all important Minotaur? Yes there are, but Tarsem has tried in part to return to the origins of the myth. But I am not saying anything more, as I don't give spoilers, except to add I really liked the minotaur. No it wasn't a brilliant script or deeply engaging story, especially as it is based on one of the great legends of Greek mythology. But I will say that for me this film was everything Clash promised but did not deliver. It was fun, action packed, artistic and highly entertaining and it made sense.

I rate Immortals 7 heroic Monkeys which was limited by watching it on a tv.  If you have a projector and a sound system it will make this a fun experience.

16 Apr 2012

Angolia part seven; The Seventies to the Nineties, and September 11

The Disco years to Magnum P.I.

1972 brought and end to civil war to Angolia, but not peace. In December 1972 the invasion of Disco came to Angolia's peaceful land. This dark time lasted until 1981 with fashion crimes too terrible to mention here. Then finally in 1981 Disco was officially dead. It was shot several times while waiting at some traffic lights in it's cream Cadillac with avocado interior, then driven into the jungle and buried in an unmarked grave.
Human rights abuses under the Disco era
 From 1980 -1988 the country entered a new era of hope, and with hope came American television and the people became obsessed with the American TV show Magnum P.I. The country became so obsessed that the Angolian parliament passed legislation that the Angolian police force’s new uniform be changed to shorts, large moustaches and Hawaiian shirts, and the old police land rovers be replaced with Ferrari's.
Angolian Chief of police Francois Burgandy  on duty in 1986
While this legislation almost bankrupted the country, an impromptu visit by Tom Selleck in 1987 made the ridiculous expense worth it. Another issue was that the new policemen were so popular, young women would commit crimes merely to draw attention to themselves.

Economic ruin and the 90’s

1988 drove the country into ruin. Not because of the stock market crash, but due to the finance minister, Sir Miquel Renoyds investing the entire countries budget into a large DeLorean car factory after watching the movie Back to the Future.
Sir Miquel Renoyds just before his death
At a press conference Sir Renoyds  told the country that he would fix the issue by “Travelling back to 1986 to tell himself not to do it.”  Unfortunately he was killed when his car subsequently crashed into the historic New Noir fort at 88 miles per hour.

During the early 90’s the country survived on its tourist dollar, renting the national army out to Hollywood as extras for action movies starring Mel Gibson, and telemarketing Avon.

Economic recovery and the war against terror
1999 bought a time of economic recovery for the country when Crown Prince Luc Paul Scarlett II a recent graduate of  computer science at the University of Oxford, invented the Angolian Y2K protection software. He promised other developing African nations that, for a reasonable price, their countries would not fall into ruin and chaos after their computer systems collapsed in the year 2000.
Prince Luc Paul Scarlett II
While foreign critics have condemned the prince as fraudulent and conducting an elaborate hoax, Angolia  benefited from other countries' paranoia. Although Prince Luc himself points out that, history reflects that the countries that did buy his software did not suffer from mass computer software collapses. Although admittedly many did suffer economic problems.

The terrible events of September 11 had a profound effect on the Country. Angolia instantly signed up to fight the war against terror. Unfortunately due to a lack of understanding by Parliament of what that actually meant, Angolia sent it’s army to the homes of  Wes Craven, John Carpenter and Pauly Shore, and banned all the Hostel movies.
Despite the initial distress caused by the invasion of their homes, both Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Craven were very understanding Especially after they received; an official apology, a large complimentary gift basket of Angolian wines and cheeses, and the opportunity to storm the home of Pauly Shore. It was the least the Angolian government could do.

8 Apr 2012

The TAN Band wagon (the new TMNT movie)


There is a lot of talk amongst my friends, co-workers and online commentators about the new reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise. Michael Bay's production company is behind the new project with Jonathan Liebesman as the director. 

For those that are not immediately familiar with Michael bay or Jonathan Liebesman, Michael Bay was behind the recent  Transformer movies, Armageddon,  and Pearl Harbor. Jonathan Liebesman was the director of  Battle Los Angeles,  and  Wrath of the Titans.

 Are you a bit nervous yet?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were originally an adult comic created by Kevin Eastman, and Peter Laird. They went on to market their black and white comic into a successful franchise including; a role playing game  kid friendly colour comics,a TV cartoon series, computer games and a series of movies. 

We are all familiar (well unless you came from some sort of luddite household without a TV and never visited a toy shop in the late 80's, early 90's)  with the back story. of TMNT.  Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo were four turtles mutated into humanoid Turtles with great strength and agility by some toxic radioactive waste in the sewers of New York. They were trained by their sensei and adopted father, Splinter in the arts of Ninjitsu to become four crime fighters. Splinter named his sons after the great masters of the Renaissance.  As I said most people of Gen X and Y, even if they were not fans of the heroes in a halfshell know who they are, and are familiar of the basic mythology of the franchise. 
 So you can imagine the consternation of people who have heard the recent announcement by Michael Bay promoting his new project.

I quote:
“These turtles are from an alien race, and they’re going to be tough, edgy, funny, and completely lovable.”

Woah there Samson! Did he actually say these Turtles are from an alien race? Yes he did, and there has been a lot of backlash from fans about it.I like this tweet personally:

"The screams of kids of the 80's can be heard in Space" by Shawn Green.  Robbie Rist who was a voice actor for Michelangelo wrote an open letter to Michael Bay stating :
"I know believing in mutated talking turtles is kinda silly to begin with but am I supposed to be led to believe there are ninjas from another planet? The rape of our childhood memories continues..."
 Strong words.

What do I think?

I think that Michael Bay is a successful director and producer with several highly profitable movies behind him. He has a good understanding of pacing, special effects and spectacle. In fact I would say that Mr. Bay is a master of cinematic spectacle. Maybe that's why Pearl Harbour was such a success. Now I admit I haven't seen Pearl Harbour, but IMDB rates it 5.6 and the Rotten Tomatoes site rates it at 25%, and all but one friend who has watched it said; well said it sucked!
So a master of spectacle But not really a great story teller. I think the creators of South Park  sum up my feelings for Mr. Bays work with this:

I have seen Jonathan Liebesman's Battle Los Angeles however and it was pretty dull. It was meant to be this exciting action movie with guns, more guns and aliens. Which it was, but it was also dreadfully long. And I mean terribly log and drawn out until you found yourself sighing and reaching for the DVD cover to check the minutes.
It should have been named  battle the doldrums 

Now this live action movie made by this two stirling examples of creativity will be called  Ninja Turtles and apparently the earth will be invaded by Aliens, but they will be resisted by the Turtles (well aliens who look like Turtles) who I imagine will save the day.  Now I have seen one reference of Krang being in this movie which is interesting.

Krang was one of the  original villains from the RPG and the cartoon. He is an evil alien who wishes to take over the Earth, and joins up with the heroes arch nemisis Shredder. So if they include Krang  perhaps this film will be truer to the original concept than I first thought?

What a minute lets look at this story again? Earth will be invaded by Aliens, but they will be resisted by other Aliens which resemble something on earth, Turtles. Oh god all we need is some sort of mystical artifact and a local teenager and we have the mutant version of  Transformers  except that's just it isn't it, there are no mutants just aliens.

As you know (well if you read this blog) I am a firm believer that if you are making a making a movie, regardless if it is a movie of a comic, or book, TV show or even fairy tale or legend, that you are true to the basic concept;  Luke is Darth Vaders son, Indiana Jones is an Archaeologist, Dorothy is trying to get home, James Bond is a secret agent. You can of course take a story and retell it in a new and exciting way. O Brother Where art thou?  was a clever retelling of the story of Odysseus, and  The Graveyard Book  was a retelling of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book.  These adaptations still told the same story while being true to the original concept, but as with the Indiana Jones or James bond examples, it doesn't work if Indiana is a physicist or James is a Butler.
Indy contemplated quantum electrochemistry
Adaptions and retelling of classic stories can be creative and entertaining. They do not have to be trite or cheap copies of earlier works. I truly believe that storytelling is only confined by the boundaries of human imagination. However it appears that some Hollywood studios are constrained by their fear of a bad box office to think beyond Michael Bay turning a piece of child hood nostalgia into a bad rehash of his previous work.
I could well be wrong in this, but I refer to  Pearl Harbour  and the latest  Transformers movie.

Anyway I hope you all had a great Easter and more Angolia posts are coming.