Movie Review: Wrath Of The Titans

Right from the get-go, I want to say that, intentional or not, this movie feels like it seeks to dwarf “Immortals”, the other Greek mythology epic action flick released a few months ago, in every way.  Both star handsome young actors playing the demigod son of Zeus, both involve villains trying to release some dangerous creatures from the underworld, principally Mount Tartarus.  Whereas Mickey Rourke tried to release the Titans from a cage inside the Tartarus dungeon in “Immortals”, Ralph Fiennes and co. tried to release Kronos, the father of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, from a Tartarus prison that includes an enormous labyrinth and tons of lava in “Wrath of the Titans”.  In the end, however, the two films have the commonality of making me think “is it really that hard to make a decent Greek mythology action film?”

Sam Worthington once again proves that he can be a charismatic action star that can’t act.  Don’t get me wrong, his acting chops are miles ahead of Arnold or Stallone, but being best known for having starred almost exclusively in epic action films such as “Avatar”, “Terminator Salvation”, and “Clash of the Titans”, all Worthington has to do is look good while screaming “arrrrgh!” while firing a gun or wielding a sword.

I can’t say I took this movie seriously from the beginning.  As it is a sequel to “Clash of the Titans” and not a reboot, I went into the theatre expecting swords and sandals cheese  and I got it.  With Johnathan Liebsman, who directed “Battle: Los Angeles”, on the helm this time, the non-stop action certainly makes it less boring.

The special effects are better utilized than that of “Clash”, as we see mythical monsters such as Minotaur, Kronos, and Chimera, come to life.  But the grand battle scenes feel oddly underwhelming, as we don’t seem to see enough (CGI) troops on the side of the humans.  If they decided to go all out on the special effects, go crazy like “Troy”, or get the perfect amount to generate the proper atmosphere like “Lord of the Rings”.  But what we got on screen instead was a battle to save humanity between Kronos, the baddest of all bad-daddies, and a few thousand Greek soldiers.

The actors did what they could with the corny dialogue, and the audiences do not establish a real connection with any of the characters, even Perseus, the main protagonist.  Thus, even though Zeus and Poseidon and others keep on reminding us that the end is near and everyone will die, we didn’t feel the impending doom. (When discussing this feeling, I always allude to “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”, which conveyed a sense of desperation that the audience experienced in a profound way.)

All in all, “Wrath of the Titans” is a decent film if you want to catch a corny action special effects flick.  It is certainly better than its predecessor, but given the material and mythological figures at their disposal, they have lots of room for improvement if they were to make a third “Titans.”

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Politics Daily #3 – A Quick Thought on Rush, Sandra, and Birth Control

Numerous conservative figures ranging from talk-radio to Congress have, in one way or another, attacked the Obama administration for having a provision in the health care law requiring all health institutions, secular or religious, to provide contraception to their employees.  For example, the foul-mouthed Rush Limbaugh has chosen to sink to a new low with his latest comments, calling Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’, amongst other derogatory terms.

In addition, a few members of congress have essentially made claims that women are having too much sex, or thinks, for some reason, that they are not allowed to use birth control.

Rachel Maddow demonstrated on her show how poor Rush actually does not understand how birth control, or more specifically, the pill (apparently he isn’t aware of the fact that the purchase of the pill has nothing to do with how many times the woman has sex, because the woman has to take the pill every day regardless of whether or not she will have sex), works.  Bill O’Reilly, on the other hand, defended Rush by saying he doesn’t want his government money paying for someone to have (safe)sex.

As I read more and more ridiculous comments that paint the picture of women being sex-addicts and allowing women to have birth control would have detrimental effects towards society, I started to think:

The men saying these things do not remember how sex works.

See, in order for hetero-sex to happen, there needs to be a woman and – gasp! – a man.  For every woman that wants sex, there is a man that wants it just as much, or more.  And I’d say, at least on the surface, men are more obvious in their desire for sex than women.  To prevent women from having birth control would only mean that they won’t be able to have sex without the risk of getting pregnant or contracting sexually-transmitted diseases.  So unless the men of the world suddenly want to become responsible for tons of unwanted pregnancies, they better support birth control.

Which brings us back to an age-old question: a woman can be called a ‘slut’ for loving sex, but what do we call a man who loves sex?

A man.

Politics Daily #2 – “I Will Repeal Obamacare”

“If I were elected President, I will cut spending and eliminate our debt [Crowd Cheers].  I will repeal Obamacare [Crowd Cheers].” – Mitt Romney.

In a way, I want to compare this little piece political rhetoric to when Newt Gingrich called John King’s question regarding him asking his second wife about having an open marriage ‘despicable’.  They both were examples of ways to get the crowd on their side, but when one actually give those statements some thought, they would notice that the people who cheered after those comments have no idea what they are cheering about other than a rousing sound bite.

I won’t talk about the Gingrich comment here, as anyone reading this probably knows the incident I am referring to.  Suffice to say that upon another look, CNN’s John King had every reason to ask Gingrich that question because it puts the presidential nominee’s personal character and morality into question.

What I want to focus on is the statement “I will repeal Obamacare.”  Romney often makes this claim during this campaign stump speeches as well as his victory and pretend-victory) speeches after primaries and caucuses.  But what does that even mean? Even if one were to assume that Obamacare is doing more harm than good (which a majority of Americans as well as economists and academics do not), the ultimate question then becomes: what if it helps just one person in America to get the care he needs, but that care will be taken away if Obamacare is repealed?

Furthermore, even if we suppose that the Romney health care plan is better (which many claim that it isn’t), what if it the same person falls through the cracks and does not provide the care that Obamacare have been giving? Should a utilitarian principle apply whereby more people would benefit from the new Romneycare but some people who are benefiting from Obamacare are abandoned?

My point is, Romney isn’t really aware of the implications of repealing Obamacare.  And, while it certainly sounds invigorating on the campaign trail, he’s going to have to face some tough questions from many Americans if he were to follow through with this promise.

Plus, repealing something like the Affordable Care Act isn’t as easy as Romney seems to imply; unless the Republican gain or regain control of the House, the Senate, as well as him (or another candidate) becoming President, it’s never going to happen.

Politics Daily #1 – The Republican Primary Blender

I have chosen to talk about the Republican primary race as the topic of the first installment of my “Politics Daily” series.  It is the subject that dominates the cable news channels day in and day out.  But, as anyone who views the cable news channels with any frequency (i.e. MSNBC, Fox, CNN), discussions about the state of the primary gets boring, fast.

It is the same stuff over and over again, partly because the primary process is (might have been deliberately) so long that nothing new emerges.  After the early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Florida, we said goodbye to the candidates who were never realistic choices to become the nominee (Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain), and to candidates who either lacked fundamental skills in political stagecraft (Rick Perry), or never gained traction with voters (Jon Huntsman).

What we are left with are three candidates with so many flaws voters cringe at the prospect of them leading the nation and one without a realistic chance of winning but has a sort-of entrenched cult following that isn’t likely to switch allegiances any time soon.

I can imagine many Republican voters (and Independent voters),  presented with the names Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul as their choices to face Barack Obama in the general election are thinking to themselves, “really?” Each one of them has had a political career, coupled with unpopular, inconsistent, or extreme political views, that can be picked apart by the Obama campaign.

Even Fox news, the most viewed cable new channel in America, and the de-facto voice of the Republican party, doesn’t have a clear idea of whom they are supporting to become President.  While they are still reluctantly (or resisting) supporting Romney, they have a hard time wrapping their heads around envisioning a President Santorum.

And now, after the results of Super Tuesday, with Romney unable to claim a decisive victory and still clearly facing much opposition to him becoming the Republican nominee, it might come down to the eventual surrender by Rick Santorum.  Then what?

In this struggle to survive the Republican primary marathon, I guess Mitt Romney should really thank the Citizens United decision and his host of wealthy donors.

Politics News: Andrew Breitbart Dead at 43

Read more on the Huffingtonpost here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/andrew-breitbart-dead-blogger-dies_n_1312944.html

Outside of his fervent conservatism and ridiculous fact-bending rhetoric, I’m sure he was a good man in his personal life.  RIP.

Movie Review: Safe House

Upon walking out of the theatre after watching “Safe House”, a sort-of spy-espionage action thriller starring the screen giant Denzel Washington and the screen candy Ryan Reynolds, it had occurred to me that I really should give more appreciation to the rare action thrillers that comes along every once in a while and makes you think “wow, that really works”, in that the film just clicked in terms of its script, acting, action sequences, etc.  Unfortunately, “Safe House” isn’t one of these films.

It certainly should be praised with regards to the acting, with Washington playing an experienced and cold-blooded ex-CIA Agent so convincingly you’d think he’s played it dozens of times before.  But the story, which had a promising premise and opening before descending into a simpleton who-done-it plot line more suitable for Thursday night TV shows, just failed to make anything out of the performances.

That was the most disappointing thing about the film.  There is a set up for a thriller of a much grander scale here, comparable to that of the “Bourne” films.  In the much-praised trilogy (soon no longer a trilogy with the release of “The Bourne Legacy”), the stakes feel higher; we feel the profound implications of the actions of the characters, and we are are always guessing on what happens next.  “Safe House” has too predictable a storyline to be on the same footing as the “Bourne” films.

Also, there comes a point where with good script-writing, you can blur the line between action sequences that make sense and those that do not.  For example, some scenes in the “Bourne” films can be argued as denying the laws of physics or physically impossible, but because it fits well into the story and we as the audience believe the characters are making logical decisions, we don’t get the sense that the action sequences make no sense at all, as some did “Safe House.”

Blessed with such a strong cast, why box yourself in by running the characters around in a who-done-it plot where the audience figures out who the true villains are before the characters do? Often times when I go to the movies and I see parts where I can guess almost exactly what happens or even what the characters will say I smile to myself.  It never ceases to help remind myself that good script-writing is actually quite hard to come by and, unfortunately, “Safe House” is brought down by a weak script.