Posts Tagged ‘Ray Harryhausen’

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August 2, 2013

Pacific Rim
An Active3D movie review

Movie: Pacific Rim

Rating: *** (out of 5)

It’s the near future, and gigantic reptiles are attacking major cities around the world (because, as we know, aliens never bother with laying siege on boring rural towns, or even cities that don’t look pretty (Johannesburg, anyone?). The US military has deployed an army of similarly towering metal robots to fight back, each of which is piloted by two humans who have to undergo a coupling and synchronising of their minds before they can take on this demanding task.

Confession time: I was hesitant going in, but I girded my loins and braved the preview theatre. And I’m happy to say that the film exceeded my expectations; quite possibly because it was helmed by the Mexican fantasy filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who brings a measure of savvy to the affair. Whilst the script sported a few good laugh lines, I could’ve done with a measure more humour – after all, even Shakespeare, in his darkest tragedies, knew the importance of a hearty chortle amidst the swordplay.  But the cast is earnest, and takes their task diligently, without stretching to the point of being camp; it’s a delicate tightrope…

Three characteristics of modern fantasy films that have really started irritating me:
a) They take themselves too seriously, and are too sombre for what are after all, largely comic-book stories,
b) The CGI battle sequences take forever,
c) They’re played out in dark, bloodless hues.

I’m thrilled to declare, however, that:
a) del Toro clearly realises that this isn’t the sequel to ‘The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie’, and handles the affair as the Saturday matinee movie that it is,
b) the CGI battle sequences are mercifully short, by comparison with other films of this genre. They get in, have it out and call it a day; bim-bam-boom!
c) the film is a feast of exciting colours and, stereoscopically speaking, it’s out there with the front-runners.

And speaking of aesthetic delights, the gorgeous Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, looking as if she’s stepped out of an Anime comic, provides a pleasing counterpart to all the noisy machismo that surrounds her.

A bonus for the credit geeks who sit out the final roll, is a fade-out tribute paid by the filmmakers to the “monster masters”  Ray Harryhausen and Ishirô Honda.



April 16, 2010

An Active3D Movie Review: Clash of the Titans (the 2010 remake)

Rating (out of 5 stars): Zero

Having recently received the reissue DVD of the 1981 version of ‘Clash of the Titans’, I asked myself (before viewing this new version) why there was even a need to remake that splendid original epic, with its imaginative array of Ray Harryhausen creatures and its entertaining performances from a heavyweight cast which included Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Harry Hamlin, Burgess Meredith and Flora Robson.

Now that I have seen the 2010 version, I ask myself the same question. But with tears in my eyes.

If you have even the slightest interest in Greek mythology, you will be offended by the liberties taken here. No one has decreed that the filmmakers be bound by those classical storylines, but then, if they didn’t like them, why didn’t they just make their own movie without any claims on Greek mythology? This travesty is akin to making a film purporting to be based upon Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – just that, this time, the lovers survive and eventually retire to a villa in Spain…

My next target: the script, such as it is. A dry, witless and unimaginative piece of work that seems to have been written by a computer. On autopilot. To this unexciting document, the studio has attached a couple of fine actors (Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes) who clearly did it just for the money. Their presence alone does nothing to elevate the project. How could it? If the film crops up in their obituaries in years to come, it will only be as proof that they weren’t always as  selective with scripts as they should’ve been.

Then comes the rest of the cast; a raft of B actors that wouldn’t look out of place in an am-dram production in hell. This motley crew is headed up by Sam Worthington, who recently starred in ‘Avatar’. If Worthington has a facial expression other than “clenched jaw”, then I’ve yet to see it on the big screen. And his Ozzie accent grates. Yes, if the Greek Gods had existed, I’m sure that they wouldn’t have spoken English either, but the Ozzie accent seems entirely out of place – especially in light of the fact that no one else in the film speaks that way. “If oi do thes, oi do thes es a mehn…”

Hey, if Charlize Theron could do something about her tacky little Boksburg accent, then surely Mr Worthington could do something about his irritating bray…

And finally… the topic to which this blog is dedicated: 3-D. The film was shot in 2-D, and, only after it was made, Warner Brothers decided to capitalise upon the current 3-D craze. So, what did they do? They converted it to 3-D in post-production. Now, post-production 3-D is capable of being quite impressive, but it takes time to do properly. Ask George Lucas, who has spent years  converting ‘Star Wars’ to 3-D, for future release. With this production, the conversion process was rapidly executed over a few weeks – and it shows!

The 3-D effect is unbearably bad for at least three quarters of the film. Every now and then, a shot works in 3-D. The rest of the time I spent worrying whether the projector had been set up properly – or my eyes needed checking. I’m happy to report, however, that my eyes are quite functional, and the projector was working as it ought to have. I am less happy to report that this particular conversion to 3-D is a disgrace. After seeing the film, many may be turned off 3-D cinema, and conclude that there’s something wrong with the process, rather than the film itself.

I was bored and irritated by this carelessly flung together piece of filmmaking, but am even more disturbed by the damage this could do to the reputation of stereoscopic cinema. Tat Wolfen