Wrath Of The Titans Is An Improvement Over Clash

Though many hated the 2010 remake of Clash Of The Titans, to this reviewer it was an enjoyable romp; it wasn’t anything great but it was entertaining with nice special effects. The sequel Wrath Of The Titans is more of the same, which may or may not be good news depending on where you stand with Clash Of The Titans.

Wrath Of The Titans picks up several years after the first one, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is now living as a simple fisherman in a quaint village with his son Helius (John Bell). Sadly, Io (portrayed in the first film by the beautiful Gemma Arterton) died in between films and is a missed presence. One day the demigod Perseus is visited by his father Zeus (Liam Neeson) who asks for his help. The Greek gods are dying off because people have stopped worshipping them, the remaining gods are now weaker and to remedy this Zeus’ brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Zeus’ son Aries (Edgar Ramirez) want to free the titan Kronos (actually Zeus and Hades’ father for anyone not knowing Greek mythology) from his underworld prison to regain power. The problem is that Kronos intends to destroy the world.

Perseus doesn’t want anything to do with the Greek gods’ problems but reluctantly gets involved after a two-headed chimera escapes from the underworld and attacks his village. Later he learns that Zeus has been captured by Hades and Aries and that his power is being drained to empower Kronos. Thus, the demigod joins forces with Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), another demigod Agenor (Toby Kebbell) and the god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy) to find an entrance to the underworld, free Zeus and defeat Kronos.

This film has non-stop action and special effects sequences. Most of it was good, but one thing that was different from the first film is that more emphasis is placed on the gods themselves, which is a good thing since Neeson and Fiennes work well together and make convincing gods. Another point is that there are less monsters featured in this film but they were nonetheless amazing. The most impressive ones being Kronos, the chimera and a family of giant Cyclops. In fact, the Cyclops were so well done it was a shame they weren’t used more in the film. Worthington again does a decent job as the reluctant warrior forced to save the world. Many characters were more memorable than those in Clash Of The Titans and added flavor this mythological world, especially Agenor and Hephaestus, who both provided some comedic relief. The film has its drawbacks, it races from plot point to plot point with action scenes holding them together resulting in character development being sacrificed. While Zeus and the other gods get more screen time other characters like the flying horse Pegasus and Hephaestus only have extended cameos. But director Jonathan Liebesman does his usual competent job in presenting an entertaining film.

Overall, while Wrath Of The Titans isn’t in the same league as Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter it is a worthwhile diversion on a Saturday night. Regarding the post-converted 3D, it actually was much better done than the original and not as headache-inducing. It may not be genuine 3D but if you have the extra cash go ahead and splurge on the 3D version of this film.

Lewis T. Grove

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2012 Doomsday Scenarios: Month Three

This premise may sound silly, and what doesn’t help are the ludicrous scientific explanations given in many films and shows. It’s probably why it’s not something that comes to mind when dealing with doomsday. But it’s now spring so let’s think about nature.  At one time, particularly during the 1950s and 1970s the concept of humanity’s comeuppance via nature wasn’t considered far-fetched by many. Usually the film would have protagonists encountering freaks of nature that threaten humanity if allowed to run rampant. Sometimes the creatures practically destroyed major cities. Tokyo and New York were preferred targets. Often, the culprits behind the mutations were byproducts of pollution or radiation. Godzilla comes to mind, actually he’s a prime example of…(drum roll please, add in an ominous voice)

Doomsday Scenario No. 10: When Nature Strikes Back

Sounds like the title for a Syfy Saturday night movie, doesn’t it? No surprise since the channel is now infamous for airing schlocky grade z sci-fi/horror films about mutated animals. There isn’t any need to list any of them here, just tune in to the channel say every third or so Saturday night to find one.

The heyday for nature striking back took place in two different eras; the 1950s when everyone lived in fear of nuclear weapons (we still do but for different reasons and it isn’t nature we fear but madmen determined to get WMDs) and the 1970s when pollution was the pc catchphrase for the decade.

Atomic Giants

In the 1950s people worried about the long-lasting effects of nuclear radiation. Many films reflected this fear with stories about nuclear bombs unleashing gigantic monsters that were either prehistoric or animals that were mutated into mammoth proportions. Filmmakers ran the gamut with the kinds of ordinary animals that were deadly when grown larger. Probably the best film dealing with giant animals was Them! It was about ants gigantically mutated by atomic tests that emerge out of New Mexico and wind up in the sewers of Los Angeles. Other films include The Deadly Mantis, Tarantula, and The Giant Behemoth. Quickly these films gained poor reputations as inferior filmmakers churned out low-grade movies to capitalize on the craze. These kinds of films tapered off years later but do pop up from time to time. Only the cause for the gigantism isn’t because of radiation but pollution or other reasons. They usually ranged from the ridiculous Night Of The Lepus  (which was about giant killer rabbits…seriously) and Empire Of The Ants to somber and violent films like Prophecy  (featuring a giant mutated bear) and Mimic (mutated, man-eating hybrid insects) to more tongue-in-check efforts like Eight-Legged Freaks.

As shown with Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, atomic bombs woke up prehistoric behemoths slumbering for millions of years. But Godzilla wasn’t the first such creature unleashed to threaten humankind. The original nuclear dinosaur was the fictional rhedosaurus from The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. But it was Godzilla that jumpstarted the giant monster craze from Japan that brought forth kaiju films that starred popular monsters like Gamera, Mothra, Rhodan and so on. They are still popular even though Toho, the company that produces the Godzilla films, stopped making them. There are plans to make another American version of Godzilla, but let’s hope they get it right the next time.

Things quieted down in the 1960s as fears about atomic mutants gave way to civil strife and cultural angst. Still, there are a couple of films in the time period that addressed the theme of nature fighting back. The best one was Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The Birds. For no explanation ordinary birds start attacking people en masse. Many of the scenes were quite chilling and show how helpless people can be against nature. It’s too bad the film studio didn’t let Hitchcock keep his original ending where flocks of birds have taken over San Francisco and presumably the world.

Another film is the original Planet Of The Apes. It doesn’t have an overt man vs. nature theme but it’s there and runs throughout the other films in the series including the recent Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Simians in the latter film were experimented on and they escaped to wreck vengeance on their human foes. Throughout the series, it’s stated that civilization falls when apes gain the upper hand against humans.

Pollutant Spawns

In the 1970s the big fear was man-made pollution and its effect on the environment. Godzilla even got into the act with Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster where he faced off against a giant mutated slug that oozed deadly pollution. The premise in these nature-run-amok films is that humanity was being punished and the sentence was extinction. Of course, it rarely got that far but many of the offerings were interesting. Take this obscure film The Day Of The Animals. In this one, the ozone layer is depleted and increased ultraviolet radiation somehow brings upon animals, living in an altitude above 5,000 a rabies-like illness that makes them violent. Or how about this nugget of a film, Frogs, where animals sharing an island with a cantankerous landowner have had it with the constant pollution and take out the guests at the landowner’s birthday celebration. It was goofy yet creepy at times. Other films from this era include Squirm (killer worms), Kingdom Of The Spiders (William Shatner vs. you guessed it killer spiders), Ben (about swarming rats and yes Michael Jackson sang the title song), and Phase IV. The latter is about ants that evolve a hive mind and begin a successful dominion of the Earth.

These types of films aren’t as numerous as before probably because it is hard to pick out genuinely good films from so many awful ones that get more attention. Look at 2008’s The Happening which is about killer plants that cause people to kill themselves. It was so bad that the film’s star  Mark Wahlberg later publicly ragged about it. But they’re still being made because while most people realize that radiation and pollution won’t create monsters overnight there is still the fear that we are upsetting nature’s delicate balance and one day we will truly pay the price.

New Fringe & Supernatural: All Is Right!

Ah, last night was great for TV watching. Wasn’t home to see the new episodes of Fringe and Supernatural but I DVRed them and finally caught up to them today. Wow, both new episodes hit the mark(s) with some amazing, wonderful and disturbing developments.

Fringe began its run of the final eight shows for the season (and maybe the series unless Fox renews it for a fifth season) with “A Short Story About Love.” There were basically three storylines; one about Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) realizing the memories and feelings from the Olivia of Peter Bishop’s (Joshua Jackson) universe were supplanting her own. The problem is that Peter’s Olivia is in love with him, while the “regular” Olivia has no romantic feelings towards him. Meanwhile, Peter is following clues left behind by the Observer that apparently died in the previous episode. The third storyline was pretty average procedural junk about a deformed madman out to create a love potion from killing lovers. It was the kind of stuff you may find in a typical X-Files episode. Luckily, this storyline didn’t dominate the show.

The big reveals were pretty surprising. It turns out (SPOILERS AHEAD) that Peter is in fact in his own universe so that Olivia’s new feelings for him is probably the universe correcting itself. Luckily for us soft-hearts, Olivia independently decided to give in to her new memories and feelings and the end was so blissful and romantic. It was a heartwarming reminder to us cynics that love is the greatest force in the universe. Even on Fringe.

Supernatural began airing new episodes last week, and just as it all seemed hopeless for the ally-challenged Winchester brothers, Sam (Jared Padelecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Castiel (Misha Collins) returned!

Yay! Our favorite stoic Angel that supposedly died earlier this season (and gave rise to those dumb Leviathan baddies) is back. In this week’s episode “The Born-Again Identity” Sam is committed to a psychiatric ward because the Lucifer hallucination in his head has driven him crazy. Desperately calling anyone for help, Dean finds out about this genuine faith healer. So when he goes to the guy’s place it turns out the healer is none other than Castiel. It turns out that he lost his memory and doesn’t remember being an angel or anything else.

Anyway, he decides to help Dean out. It was so great to see our pal Cass, it helps that he’s easy on the eyes LOL. Eventually, he remembers who he is and is wracked with guilt over his previous actions when he tried to play God. He gets to Sam in time to save him from a demon. But it turns out he can’t cure Sam of his hallucinations so in an act of self-sacrifice he transfers the debilitating hallucinations onto himself and he winds committed. Frankly it sucks that they had to leave him there in that ward. I guess the producers still wanted the brothers on their own to take on those Leviathan. Still sucks anyway because I know Castiel would kick the Leviathan’s butt all over the place. It just makes me wonder why can’t the Winchesters find some supernatural allies to help them with the Leviathan? Hopefully, they will be done with when the season finale comes around.

Annette DeForrester

 

Real Or Fake 3D Films

Once considered a novelty gimmick back from the ’50s 3D films look to be a mainstay in modern-day cinema. Specifically, f/x-laden genre spectaculars. It’s gotten to the point that a big-budget sci-fi or fantasy film without the 3D treatment seems to stand out or seem lacking. A prime example of that is the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises.

As anyone knows, this all started with the phenomenal success of James Cameron’s Avatar. There had been 3D film releases before Avatar but none of them were as hugely successful as Cameron’s sci-fi epic. Naturally, the film studios attributed Avatar’s success to the revolutionary 3D process that James Cameron utilized and set out to recreate that film’s success at the box office. This is why it seems as if every major genre or animated film is released these days in 3D.

All would be terrific if the 3D used was actually good on a consistent basis.

More and more often, audiences are complaining about the inferior 3D used in many films. Unlike Avatar, which was filmed using 3D cameras, most films released in 3D are post-converted. Usually it seems as if this process was slapped on at the last second and it shows. There are many rants that the films looked dark during some scenes, and actually seemed two dimensional at other times. These complaints were leveled at Clash Of The Titans, Green Lantern and Marvel Studios’ recent super hero films.

Film studios are in danger of killing any enthusiasm for a 3D film. What makes things worse is that the studios won’t reveal in their ads if the films were truly filmed in 3D or not. Add to that the higher ticket prices and it won’t be long before the bloom is off the rose so to speak. There are signs that this is happening already. Take the ticket sales of the newly released John Carter; despite the promotion that the sci-fi epic was in 3D (it was post-converted according to reports) it wasn’t a big hit. Or better yet, look at how Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace did when re-released last month in 3D. It wasn’t a flop and did respectably but it wasn’t a mega hit. Of course, being that Star Wars Episode I was filmed over a decade ago, one couldn’t expect it not to be post-converted, and in that film’s defense the conversion was actually pretty decent. While some images appeared to be two-dimensional, some scenes looked good and at least there weren’t any scenes that looked dark.

The true 3D process using special cameras is costly, but in the long run, it would benefit studios since they can claim their films are true 3D films rather than something hastily done to earn a quick buck.

The good news is that while many upcoming films are using the post-conversion process, there are more and more films that do use actual 3D. While some of those films may not be appealing to some (feature-length animated films and horror films) they do point to the notion that 3D is becoming more mainstream. Perhaps a day will come when it becomes more economical for studios to produce true 3D films on a regular basis or at least improve the post-conversion process. (This improvement would benefit older films needing conversions like future Star Wars re-releases.)

This website reports which recent and upcoming films are true 3D films and which ones aren’t. The following is a partial list of upcoming films using both types of 3D.

Post-Converted: The Avengers, The Cabin In The Woods, Gravity, Men In Black III, Wrath Of The Titans

Actual 3D: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave, The Hobbit, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Prometheus, Resident Evil: Retribution

José Soto

Top 10 Sci-Fi Video Game Franchises

 

With the release of the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3 video game fans have another game to obsess about. Stunning graphics and creative storylines have created popular franchises like Halo, Mass Effect and Resident Evil. These are the best science fiction-based video game franchise to date.

10. Doom (PC/N64/PlayStation/Xbox): The FPS (first person shooter) that made FPSs mainstream, fighting demons on Mars and various other locales has never been more fun.

9. Gears Of War (Xbox 360): On the planet of Sera, grizzled soldier Marcus Fenix and his compatriots battle vicious aliens known as the Locust Horde that emerge from beneath the surface of their world. this game has been very influential in other games featuring third person combat.

8. Halo (Xbox/Xbox 360): Hugely successfully FPS series that launched Microsoft’s original Xbox console in 2001, players suited up as the super soldier Master Chief fighting a collection of alien races known as the Covenant out to exterminate humanity.

7. Metroid (NES/Super NES/Gamecube/Wii/Gameboy): Pioneering video game heroine Bounty Hunter Samus Aran fights space pirates and parasitic metroid aliens in one of Nintendo’s classic franchises.

6. Dead Space (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360/Wii): Wonderful survival horror set in space. Aliens that reanimate human corpses into hideous creatures called necropmorphs, as well as alien artifacts that cause people to go insane give this series a feel reminiscent of the Alien and Event Horizon movies.

5. Resident Evil (PlayStation, PS2/PS3/Xbox 360): This survival horror classic series that has players fighting everything from zombies created by the T-Virus to genetically mutated beasts and people and animals infected by the ancient las plagas parasites in Resident Evil 4.

4. Mass Effect (Xbox 360/PS3): Epic storyline of humanity’s coming of age in a galaxy of some friendly and some not so friendly alien races is reminiscent of Babylon 5, this action-packed RPG concluded the saga with the new Mass Effect 3.

3. Resistance (PS3): The FPS launch title Resistance: Fall Of Man has spawned an excellent franchise. Set in an alternate universe where WWII never happened, the Tunguska incident of 1908 caused aliens to overwhelm Russia and then Europe in 1951 and eventually the U.S. in later games.


2. Half-Life
(PC/PS3/Xbox 360): Nuclear physicist turned freedom fighter Gordon Freeman is a thinking man’s action hero that fights inter-dimensional aliens who occupy Earth.

1. BioShock (PS3/Xbox 360): Taking place in an underwater utopian city gone wrong drenched in 1940s decor, this FPS with genetically manipulated baddies was an instant classic when released. The highly anticipated third game in the series BioShock Infinite will be set in a city in the clouds in 1912.

C.S. Link