Monthly Archives: March 2012

“Wrath of the Titans” – reviewed!

Now featuring actual Titans!

No Kraken were armed in the making of this motion picture – but Greek mythology was slightly bruised by liberties in the script.

I think that most people can agree that the remake of Clash of the Titans could have been better.  The greatest source material that you could hope for – Greek mythology, for the sake of the Gods! – and what director Louis Leterrier delivered was some nifty effects, set design, a stellar cast and a story which seemed plodding and dull.  That’s somewhat unforgivable, frankly.   It was a success at the box office, but had a terrible post-conversion to 3D and even star Sam Worthington felt that a better movie was needed from a sequel.

And, even though this isn’t the best movie ever made, it’s a hell of a lot better than the first entry in the series.

Perseus - Bestrider of Staircases!

This time around, Worthington’s Perseus has rejected his half-God status to live a simple life as a fisherman, raising his son Helius in what passes for peacetime in ancient Greece (Io, Perseus’ love interest in the first film is no more, a plot detail in no way driven by Gemma Arterton‘s fee going up between that flick and this sequel).  As you might expect, peace exists in a film like this only to be shattered and it’s not long before all manner of Gods and Titans are kicking ass and putting the mortal characters in the thick of a battle for the fate of the universe.

So, small beans then?

You want to get that looked at, mate...

This is basically a classic quest narrative, as befits the source material, with Perseus teaming up with Greek warrior Queen Andromeda (a lovely, brilliantly posh, somewhat underused Rosamund Pike),  and fellow half-god/half-mortal rogue Agenor (Toby Kebbell – the best thing in the movie) to acquire a weapon god-tier enough to beat the God Kronos who wants to unleash Titans on a planet which has lost all respect for the Gods.

The man, the myth, the crusty beard - Toby Kebbell

If it’s spectacle that you go to the movies for, then this film delivers that with almost casual aplomb.  Unlike the laboured and oddly static original, “Wrath…” hits the ground running in its first ten minutes and doesn’t really come up for air until the end credits.  The ‘bigger/better/badder’ mantra is frequently thrown around with sequels as an indicator for the floating ticket buyer that they’ll get value for money from the film.

Making Kate Middleton look like white trash - Rosamund Pike.

I saw this film today in the new IMAX/LieMax 3D screen at my local multiplex in Sheffield and it was a feast for the eyes – the 3D is still post-converted but it’s a good job, achieved with more time allocated to the conversion and with a stereographer on set, per director Jonathan Liebesman‘s recent interviews.  The effects work is particularly impressive during a sequence set in the Labyrinth which guards a mortal back-door to the God prison in Tartarus.  Things are popping past you, dimensions are being played with and the scale of the thing is something, truly, to behold.

It’s not all good, however.  That same sequence in the Labyrinth bears witness to the worst example of action movie editing and photography that I’ve seen in a while – it’s all handheld camera work, blink and miss it edits and totally impossible to follow, even on a screen taller than my house.  Apparently, somebody on-screen was vanquished but you’d be hard pressed to tell how it was done – a pox on you Paul Greengrass wannabes!

Sam Worthington’s actually quite likeable this time around – he’s not the pissed-off, MMA fighter badass of the first movie and his performance is all the better for it.  He’s good at stoic, pretty good at delivering the one-liners his character gets this time around and a suitable foil for Toby Kebbell’s brilliantly cool and disreputable Agenor.  Neither characters wants to be a god or lead men, but when the plot calls for them to put aside earthly concerns for the good of their fellow-men, both rise to their missions brilliantly – I’m not asking questions particularly about how Agenor got to be a master tactician and lead a major part of the Greek army in the climactic battle, but I’m glad that he did.  Even if he did look like a member of 90’s UK alternative rock troubadours, The Levellers whilst doing so.

TL;DR version?  Better than the first one (especially in IMAX), far peppier and a decent way to spend a couple of hours at the multiplex.   Still loud, funnier and better acted than the first – I’d be up for a third movie.

Not something I expected to be saying this time yesterday, let me tell you.  And I didn’t even mention Bill Nighy in the review!  He’s in it – playing mentalist inventor Hephaestus, replete with a most unexpected, contextually ludicrous and bloody glorious Yorkshire accent: Greatest Living Englishman status confirmed!

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Super Bits & Bobs…

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Oh hi there, new Superman movie logo.  As the text above suggests, this is the first look at the new logo for Krypton’s finest son and will be seen in his next on-screen adventure, Zack Snyder‘s “Man of Steel”, which is due for release in June 2013.

As somebody who dug the ever-living kibbles out of Bryan Singer‘s “Superman Returns”, creepy Emo-stalker Superman and all, I’m more than keen to see what Snyder does with it, just so long as it isn’t having the action take place in Amy Adams‘ head and require that everybody dress up like a fetish model.

Elsewhere in the realm of the computer-coloured and splash-panelled, enterprising YouTubist TheIrishAvengerCBM has posted the ‘Head Count’ tv spot for “The Avengers”, which gives us at least a second of face time with the mysterious alien pawns of Loki.  And SPOILERS…

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This would be the Badoon, apparently.  Charming fellows, just given to planetary/dimensional jumps, weird gender schisms and first appearing in “Silver Surfer” Vol 1, number 2 if my interweb searches are to be believed.

Meanwhile, back in the realm of DC, it would appear that the possibility of an Avengers-like “Justice League” movie might still happen if the publisher and Warner Brothers can figure out how to make their – let’s face it – gloriously cinematic creations into movies which work on screen.

There’s a wee interview with “Wrath of the Titans” writer Dan Mazeau over at SuperHeroHype which alludes to his work on a “Flash” movie – ‘(He) can’t just be a guy who runs fast’.  So, a guy who runs fast and runs a street dance school, maybe?  The kids are into that, amirite?

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I suspect that much of the issue may be tone – are DC going to set these films in the near-realistic Nolan universe of the “Batman” movies, which makes the likes of The Flash, Wonder Woman and J’on J’onzz that bit more difficult to incorporate or might they take a leaf out of the book of Marvel and find the science fiction in the premise to make DC’s roll-call of titans, aliens, gods and goddesses fly on screen.

Because, you know, one slightly-botched “Green Lantern” doesn’t mean that we have to give up on the idea of the DC universe in movies.

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A week of Games.

It’s been a funny old week for gamers.

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We’ve lost and regained the loved/hated high street retailer Game in blink of an eye, with its future still uncertain.  Half the branches have been shuttered and the remaining portfolio is been split between the best performing locations of Gamestation and Game, with the business apparently being readied for a subsequent sale – prompting the return of GameStop to these shores?

In Sheffield, for example, we’ve gone from six stores to two – a branch of Game in the Crystal Peaks shopping centre and a Gamestation in the larger, presumably more expensive Meadowhall shopping mall.  What this means for me is that neither are now particularly near me and I’d have to make a special trip to two not-especially-pleasant shopping venues.  I see online and a couple of independent retailers in my future.  The Guardian‘s Keza McDonald has a great piece on Game, the market space now open for indy retailers and what it all means over at their Games blog.

The vultures, of course, have begun to circle…

On another note, embattled publisher THQ announced that they’ll be giving me what I wanted but in a totally roundabout way.  By all accounts, we will see another single-player action game in the “Warhammer 40K” universe but at the cost of their expensive and apparently too unwieldy 40K MMO, which has been shuttered. Developers Relic and Vigil are accordingly reducing headcount by over 100 staff – who would work in an industry that precarious?

Sony’s new console, meanwhile, may be called Orbis rather than PS4, will eschew any attempt to be backwards compatible and will eat any pre-owned disc that you attempt to put inside it’s ravenous, bio-mechanical, terrifying cyber-maw.

Or, if you want to be boring, the new console will lock games to PSN accounts, preventing trade-in and the second-user market which is even now destroying the video game business from within.  But I prefer my version.  It’s more Cyber.

Finally, in news which isn’t actually news to anybody who’s picked up a controller or installed a game to their hard drive in the last decade, EA are in the running for the coveted title of Worst Company In America…

Whatever you’re playing this weekend, you probably want to make sure it isn’t “Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City”…

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Une image d’une porte

See, Brussels is interesting.

I’m always fond of a spot of Art Nouveau.  When Mrs Rolling Eyeballs and I were holidaying in Paris nearly ten years ago, the Musee D’Orsay had an exhibit devoted to the style and it was one of those genuinely unexpected treats which you sometimes find yourself blundering into: the museum has free admission on the first Sunday of the month, unbeknownst to us, so we got to enjoy a glorious location, in arguably the world’s most beautiful city, with inspiring art and design thrown in almost as an afterthought.

I’d love to talk more, but I’m off to gaze admiringly at Alphonse Mucha images for a few minutes…

 

 

 

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On Fanatics and Wisdom…

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Via Reddit.

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Sonisphere 2012 cancelled…

What was I just saying about rock being dead?

Great bill - wrong time?

The UK leg of the Sonisphere music festival has been cancelled.

Not a sentence that I was expecting to read today, but the financial climate is such that I imagine many fans of heavy music took one look at this year’s Download bill and thought that their cash was going Donington way.

Either that, or the lure of Tr00 Kvlt Metal at Bloodstock is too hard to resist for many a metalhead…

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Rock is dead (again)

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Fresh from debuting his band Soundgarden‘s first new music since 1996, lead singer Chris Cornell has a sobering message for those of us with ringing ears and luxuriant tresses.

Per an interview with noted rock bible “Details”*, Cornell states for the record that “Rock has lost its place at the centre of the musical universe”.  And, much as it pains me to add currency to this kind of notion, I think that he’s got a point.

*“Details” is as much a rock bible as “Kerrang!” is nowadays – in fact, “Details” may have more rock cred…

Citing American radio’s antipathy towards new rock bands, a fracturing of the creative process enabled by technology and the seemingly irresistible allure of recreational substances, Cornell paints a bleak but – to me – wholly accurate picture of where music is right now.

Once the ease of file-sharing/cut-throat IP piracy (delete as applicable) made making a living from music a labour only slightly less difficult than raising the Titanic, the infrastructure which one could rely on to inform an voracious audience about new music was changed itself – we’ve never had an easier time of finding new music, consuming it and having a new favourite band but our relationship with that music has changed so much that it’s difficult to see how anybody but an established band being able to sustain the kind of career which Cornell and Soundgarden have enjoyed.

Music has never been more of a service or a backdrop to people’s lives than it currently is.  It’s the driver which powers reality TV competitions and nominally the thing that Katy Perry or Rihanna are famous before (that is, before parallel careers in film or fashion present themselves).  That implosion of the traditional music business career model – you can’t sell records because a tiny percentage of music fans pay for music – means that you have to evolve beyond the accepted path of what a musician does.

I find that somewhat depressing, to be honest with you.  I’ve always found that music was one of the most transcendent forms of art – capable of transporting you away from your immediate environment in a different way to the written word and able to make you forget about life and your everyday woes in a way quite distinct from films or television.  It’s more immediate than that kind of directed experience and capable of making even a suit-wearing, twelve-hour day executive lose their inhibitions and go bug-wild at the sound of a power chord struck in faux-anger.  To think that music is the jumping-off point to do something more lucrative or ‘better’ is very aggrieving.

For Cornell to feel that this pathway to shared community or tribal belonging – call it what you will – is something of an admission that for a generation younger than mine, music is ever more the corporate tool of marketing products and services and less the clarion call to the soul that it’s always felt like.

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Clearly, the image above depicts the kind of thing that a Cowell-format music show would never let a prospective star get away with – how would that kind of wanton aggression and wilful property damage play in an era of David Cameron values, tabloid hysteria and razor-thin profit margins?  About as well as Justin Bieber at a Five Finger Death Punch show.

Yeah, that good.

I’ve heard the argument that rock is dead since I was a teenager and yet it’s never quite shuddered to a halt and expired – seemingly every so often, a band like Nirvana, Deftones or Muse comes along and rudely drives a vintage Fender guitar right through your heart and makes you see the world from a distinct and undeniable perspective.  I don’t see that changing, but the scale to which a band like that can break through seems to have changed.

There’s always a sense that rock should be the transgressive, unpopular, wholly disreputable older brother to the eager-to-please, squeaky clean younger sibling of pop (which makes Country your oft-divorced, beer and line-dance afficianado Uncle, I guess?), so the notion that it can’t get arrested on American radio and that the kids prefer Kanye’s glossy capitalist hip-hop narrative isn’t exactly a surprise.

When you were young, did you want to listen to your parents music?  Yeah, me either.  If I had to call it – and bloggers tend to feel that they have to – I’d say that rock isn’t dead – It’s just enjoying a disgraceful long afternoon in the sun and trying hard to ignore the bratty, currently popular kids who remind them of former glory.

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The Unspeakable Lameness of “Gamer”

Over at Topless Robot today, David Wolinsky posted a list which got me thinking – why do films get the culture of video games so completely wrong?

Hmm...noir.

Chin up Gerard, you'll be second-fiddle to that Heigl gal in second-rate rom-coms any time now...

Part of me suspects that there’s no love for the upstart medium – it competes for mind share with music and TV, further eroding Hollywood’s hold on teen and twentysomething cash and if there’s one thing that film studios don’t like to do, it’s to share cash.  Games are a potential asset to be used as source material for films, but don’t yet command the same level of respect of a hack popular novelist like Dan Brown.

When film makers do attempt to marry the always-on digital world to the heady realm of populist cinema the frequent end product ends up being something like the wretched Neveldine/Taylor directed, 2009 Gerard Butler vehicle, “Gamer”.

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This film features high on the Topless Robot list as an example of how terrible Hollywood films featuring games can be and it’s an object lesson in how to do pretty much everything wrong.

The cast are wasted.  Butler’s decent value in action flicks but he gets little to do in a role which should be multi-faceted (family man forced to kill or be killed, separated from his wife, a public enemy number one loved/hated by a global reality TV audience) but ends up being a thuggish stereotype.  Amber Valetta gets to essentially be felt up by the camera for 95 minutes as Butler’s missus – thankless isn’t the half of it.

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The tech is so ludicrous that it may as well be a film utilising magic for all the sense that it makes – the always on, beyond HD quality, omniscient camera tracking the combatants in the “Call of Duty” alike “Slayers” game in the film – how the chuff does that work, then?  There’s some guff in the script, as I recall, about neural net thingymajigs but the fact of the matter is that the game inventor in the film, Michael C Hall, is not Molyneux or Kojima but some plot-assisting analogue of Merlin and Mandrake.

This is what bugs me so much about this film – it would make more sense for the film to occupy the same space as “The Running Man” or an Ice-T vehicle that you’ve never seen, “Surviving The Game”.  But no, we’ve got to drag the new-fangled video games into this shoddy hackery because that’s the folk demon which this script has a bee in its backwards baseball cap about.

It doesn’t just stop by having a pop at the 360 console crowd – social media gets a shoeing too in the form of “Society”, a singularly bone-headed blend of “The Sims”,“Second Life” style hipster casual gaming and honest-to-goodness slavery which the Amber Valetta character finds herself sold into – because, for the most part, women in this film exist solely to be ogled, fondled, objectified and generally handled like so much meat.

I hated this movie – can you tell?

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m not exactly Roger Ebert (or Mark Kermode, for that matter). I like my B-movies, I don’t mind if they’re dumb as a box of hammers and I only ask that they be entertaining.  “Gamer” has a premise that Verhoeven and Bruce Willis would have knocked to the Moon and back in the early Nineties but fails to raise so much as a ‘hoo-rah’ with its eminently miss-able blend of crappy action, murky motivations, sleepwalking performances and a general sense that the Neveldine/Taylor team will do anything to try to shock the presumed target audience for this movie – mouth-breathing 12-year-old boys coming down off a 24 hour Mountain Dew and Doritos bender.

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You have to try hard to make a movie like this dull.  It takes real, strenuous effort.  Wall-to-wall bloodshed, eye candy and an amorality which makes Michael Bay look like Jonathan Demme – and “Gamer” is still as riveting as cleaning your clogged drains.

Neveldine/Taylor – reverse Midas touch, non?  It’s enough to make you think that the thick ear thrills of the first “Crank” film were a one-off.

I’m beginning to suspect that the issue is one of translation and the inherent problem in translating from one interactive medium to one which lends itself to contemplation and has been usurped in terms of presenting thrills by its younger sibling.

A final thought – Games excel at presenting on-screen action and have been doing it better since the PS1 and equivalent PC hardware allowed the first steps towards interactive cinematic mayhem on the player’s home television.  Hollywood’s on the back foot and probably won’t ever catch up.  Beginning to see why they put so little effort into adapting video games?

 

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“Avengers” Assemble Soundtrack…

Music to be Tony Stark by...

So, you were expecting Selena Gomez, perhaps?

In a move which boldly pitches their soundtrack album firmly at middle-aged rockers, the clever folk at Marvel have decided that this summer’s “Avengers” movie will benefit strongly from a soundtrack composed largely of the musical genre known as ‘Butt Rock’.

Is this really Joss Whedon’s taste in music?  Because, if it is, I’ve just extended my man-crush on him to an absurd degree.

The big news in the soundtrack listing is the first new material from the reunited Soundgarden , “Live to Rise”, which you can hear a brief sample of here.   Riff which might take your face off? Check.  Bass for your face?  Check.  Popular kind of flannel shirt? Check.

Elsewhere on the soundtrack, you’ve got your new (Black Veil Brides), your  grunge and nu-metal survivors (Bush, Papa Roach, Buckcherry), your ‘active rock’ power-players (Shinedown, Theory of a Deadman, Five Finger Death Punch) and your inexplicable (drum and bass godhead Photek remixing Evanescence.  Huh?)

Nu-Metal divas assemble! (Just don't kick me with your cyber-goth boots, Amy)

Mild snark notwithstanding, I am all over this soundtrack like a slavering fanboy who just realised that there’s less than a month to go before he gets to go and see “Avengers Assemble” with Mrs Rolling Eyeballs.  It’s quite possible that this track listing is not your kettle of salmon, but I’m almost predestined on a genetic level to like this stuff – crunchy loudness makes Fluffrick happy!

Excelsior!  Ahem…

 

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Katniss Sells Out

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Via The Mary Sue

And that’s how you make $152 million in three days, I guess.  Despite some controversial changes, an appalling subset of fans and the wholly expected overreaction from the brains trust at Fox News, Lionsgate have a bona fide, wide appeal blockbuster with “The Hunger Games” and despite my misgivings about the source material, I suppose that any self-respecting Whedonist like myself should be happy that a movie with an accomplished, flinty female protagonist is doing so well.

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