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Monday, June 30, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

If you make a movie about giant robots fighting each other across a metropolitan landscape you pretty much have me in your corner from the get-go, you have to really go out your way to lose me, you’d have to do something insanely stupid like having the robots being pissed on by a small dog or worse to have the robots pissing on another person, you’d need to include racist Stepin Fetchit type robots, and do something bizarre like give a giant robot truck-nuts. Of course with Michael Bay involved these are exactly the kinds of things you’re going to find in his giant robot movie. He is a man who can take a simple action sequence and edit so frenetically that it is almost incompressible to an audience, who thinks the female lead being splayed across a motorbike like a Maxim cover model is a character moment, and he is the undisputed king of Military Porn (Michael Bay never met a jet fighter he didn’t like or at least one he wouldn’t shoot flying by in loving slow motion). I wasn’t even a big fan of the original cartoon and yet he still managed to piss me off, but three movies later and a fourth one now in theaters he’s still raking in butt loads of cash, so what the hell do I know?

“So why again do these robots need human help?”
This latest installment takes place roughly four years after Transformers: Dark of the Moon and I’m already excited because Shia LaBeouf is nowhere to be seen. In his place we have Mark Wahlberg as Texan inventor Cade Yeager so don’t get too excited. The story kind of centers around a Black-Ops division of the C.I.A that has been hunting the Autobots and killing or capturing them, it is led by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) who is in league with an evil Transformer bounty Hunter named Lockdown who wants to bring Optimus Prime to The Creators for some reason. Also in the mix is Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) who plays a billionaire CEO of a “Technology of the Future” type company and he is in cahoots with Attinger who is supplying him with Decepticon and Autobot bodies for dissection so he can build his own Transformers with his supply of “Transformium” that he has had his people digging up all over the globe. And as if three different villains weren’t enough we also get the resurrection of Megatron for a pointless subplot that I guess will pay off in the sequel. Now if any of that seemed to make sense to you then I’ve done a better job than Michael Bay.

I believe this to be the most accurate reaction to this film.
Now I’m not sure why one would cast Mark Wahlberg as an inventor, he couldn’t even pull off convincing high school science teacher in The Happening, but at least here he is portraying a failed science guy, and he has a sexy daughter Tessa Yeager (Nicola Peltz) who is seventeen but secretly dating a twenty year old race car driver Shane Dyson (Jack Reynor) much to her dad’s chagrin. These three are our main human protagonists and though none of them reached the annoying levels achieved by Sam Witwicky in the first three films I still couldn’t give a tinker’s damn about them. The only human I found at all entertaining was Stanley Tucci’s billionaire inventor and that is mostly due to the fact that the character is being played by Stanley Tucci and not by anything in the script because as written it is a horrible character with an arc that makes no sense whatsoever. While Kelsey Grammer’s performance as the evil C.I.A stooge is so phoned in that I wondered if AT&T charged extra billing.

Our heroes?
This is a Michael Bay film so no one should go in expecting a movie with nuanced characters inhabiting a tight plot but his level of not caring about anything but action has reached new levels here, and boy do you get a lot of action. Action, action, action! I will give him credit that the editing wasn’t as frenetic as in some of his past films, and the fight scenes only devolved into annoying shaky-cam a couple of times but overall you could tell what was going on, you just didn’t care.
Stray Observations:
• Military operations can’t locate or track Optimus Prime who is driving across the flat landscape of Texas.
• Missiles fired by evil Black-Ops soldiers or Evil-Transformers apparently have no targeting ability.
• The three humans are indestructible. The girl actually smashes through the trailer of a transport truck while hanging out of Optimus Prime’s hand without suffering so much as a hangnail.
• Whalberg and Nicola Peltz had better romantic chemistry than what we see between her and Shane Dyson who is supposed to be her boyfriend.
• China’s military has the worst response time regarding giant robots battling through the streets of Hong Kong.
• Surprisingly little U.S. military action for a Michael Bay film.
• Optimus Prime riding a fire breathing robot T-Rex is pretty damn cool.

 If someone were to write a biography about Michael Bay the filmmaker it would most likely be subtitled “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” For he is a man who simply does not seem to care about story or character. As long as things are explodey and are flying at the screen he thinks he’s done his job, and for the many people who were cheering the events as they unfolded on screen maybe he has, but for me it’s just a shallow light show with no soul.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

300 (2006)

Frank Miller is easily one of the most well-known comic book creators of today, and many of his works have managed to make it to the big screen, but it was when in 2005 that director Robert Rodriguez helmed the adaptation of his graphic novel Sin City that non comic book fans took notice (Its worldwide box take of over $450 million dollars can attest to that). So it’s not surprising that a year later we saw another one of his hyper stylized graphic novels making a big splash on the big screen.
“We do 300 crunches a day to get abs like these.”
As adaptation go this and Sin City are probably the most faithful to the source material, using the Green Screen Back Lot the filmmakers were able to translate the panels perfectly from the comic book right to the screen. But does this make it a good film? Visually this film is stunning, the images leap off the screen in stark bold images and colours, but in the acting and writing camp things are bit shakier. “Gerard “This is Sparta!” Butler is in full hero mode and does his best to create this larger than life figure of Spartan King Leonidas, but often he comes off as a bit over-the-top cartoony. Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo is more evidence that Frank Miller may have some issues with women, and Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes pretty much sums up Miller’s views on certain ethic groups.
"I'm just a sweet transvestite."
So director Zack Snyder had to decide to either be faithful to the source material or just base his movie on the graphic novel but still do his own thing. Those of you who have watched many of Snyder’s movies know that he doesn’t really ooze all that much in the creativity department. No one can knock his ability to give us stunning visuals but too often they are in service to poor scripts with lazy plots (Sucker Punch to date is one of the biggest WTF movies I’ve ever seen. Gorgeous! but makes no sense at all). This kind of makes Snyder the perfect choice as 300 the book is all about style over substance.
 “Um, Leonidas, we kind of drink out of that well.”
 Historical Accuracy: In an MTV interview Zack Snyder stated that, “The events are 90 percent accurate. It’s just in the visualization that it’s crazy…. I’ve shown this movie to world-class historians who have said it’s amazing. They can’t believe it’s as accurate as it is.” I’m not sure where he found these “world-class historians” but thank god I never had any of them as history teachers. Frank Miller has said that “The inaccuracies, almost all of them, are intentional.” I can respect that because an artist taking liberties with facts is nothing new and I’d be hard pressed to name a movie that didn’t fudge the truth if not out and out make shit up. So when watching a movie that is “Based on True Events” it comes down to two questions; “Did this film entertain me?” and “How dear is the subject matter to me personally?”

This Oracle is certainly easier to watch than Fox News.
When I walked out of Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart, I’m betting my reaction was a lot different than say a scholar of the period who would be well versed with the events pertaining to the real life of William Wallace. The same goes for 300, if you just go in with the expectation of seeing a silly over-the-top action film you will most likely leave happy, but if you know anything about the Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae your feelings may differ greatly. Below are a few things that bothered me and not all of these have to do with his historical accuracy.
• 7,000 Greeks marched to block the path at Thermopylae. Leonidas and his 300 were an important part of that army and crucial when they were outflanked and he and his men stayed to guard the rear, but they certainly weren’t as depicted in this movie.
• Leonidas kills the Persian ambassador. This does not make you a badass. This means any ambassador you send out into the world has the life expectancy of a may fly.
• The Ephors where not leprously deformed priest who got handed drugged virgins. They were elected citizens of Sparta.
• Leonidas gives great speeches about not kneeling to Persia as they will not give up their freedom. Sparta was a slave state. So he was basically talking about his citizen’s freedom and not the thousands of slaves that do all the work while they are off fighting.
• Leonidas goes on and on about how awesome the phalanx fighting formation is and why one hunchbacked soldier would ruin the whole thing, but in this movie they stay in that formation for about half a minute before running willy-nilly into battle, and as outnumbered as they were this would have resulted in them being as quickly slaughtered.
• Leonidas makes a crack about the Athenians being “Boy Lovers”. Many scholars site Sparta as the first city state to formalize pederasty where a pubescent boy would enter a sexual relationship with an older male mentor.
• I do wish the Persian army in fact had giants, vampires, and arm-bladed mutants.

“Welcome to Xerxes Side Show of Wonders!”
Zack Snyder does do an amazing thing at the end of his film; we find out that the narrator, Dillios (David Wenham), is recounting the story of the Battle of Thermopylae to his troops about to go into battle themselves, this makes the entire movie a propaganda story, completely excusing any and all inaccuracies. That’s just brilliant.
Frank Miller and Zack Snyder have created a visual feast for fans of action and spectacle, but sadly not a very fair our accurate look at history.  Though as poorly as I think this movie was written it still better than it’s sequel 300: Rise of an Empire.

Somewhere the wolf is still circling the boy.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Maleficent (2014)

Revamping classic fairy tales has almost become its own genre, we’ve had Snow White and the Huntsman, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and Oz the Great and Powerful,  the sad thing about this is that none of them have been all that good. I’m not saying they have no redeeming qualities it just looks like the studios are pushing style over substance. As long as it looks great that means it must be great. Unfortunately that is not the case. Disney is at it again with Maleficent, here we get a version where the dark queen of the fairies may be just a little misunderstood.
 “Now face me and all the forces of Hell!”
Maleficent is not the “Mistress of all Evil” anymore. Instead, she once was a sweet young fairy who lived in the magical kingdom of Moor, flying around on beautiful wings and beloved by all her magical friends. Then she met a boy.
 Boys are smelly and not to be trusted.

The two become fast friends and as they get older their friendship turns to love, but Stefan wants to be king and so he betrays her and cuts off her wings to prove to the current king that he destroyed her. Thus winning the hand of the princess and becoming the new king. This is certainly an unusual way to run a monarchy.  Enraged by this horrible betrayal Maleficent waits patiently for her chance at revenge and this comes when the King has a daughter. Maleficent party crashes the christening and curses the baby.
“Who wants a death curse, oh you want a death curse.”
  But in this version she  curses the baby with “Eternal Sleep” and not with death, as was the case in the original story, which was then mitigated by one of the fairies into a sleep curse; “Not in death, but just in sleep, the fateful prophecy you’ll keep.” Here in lies the problem with the Maleficent of this movie; they have made her a villain/hero so they can’t have her do anything too nasty. I’m not saying this idea can’t work but Maleficent is supposed to be the “Queen of Darkness” and not a tragic misunderstood hero. Now I’ll state for the record that Angelina Jolie is fantastic in this movie and is the primary reason this film has any entertainment value whatsoever. She looks amazing and is able to imbue a good deal of pathos into a character who curses a baby. The problem is that she cursed a baby! Even if in this version it wasn’t a death curse, and later she feels really, really bad about it, but there is still the fact that she cursed a cute little infant, and that is a hard thing to work around.
“Why Fairy Godmother, what big horns you have?”
 Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is fine as the sweet maid who is raised by three idiot fairies, seriously these fairies are beyond stupid, and it is up to an ever watchful Maleficent to prevent them from starving the baby to death or letting the child wonder off a cliff.
 Later when she grows up, she assumes Maleficent is her Fairy Godmother because she has always looked after her. Unfortunately there is still that pesky curse to worry about and, of course, Prince Boring will eventually show up. Not too mention her asshole dad.
"Hail to the King, baby."
 King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) is given the thankless job of being the films real villain and he’s given no character trait other than “I want to be king at all costs!” and as a threat to Maleficent he is lame at best. The film gives Maleficent the Achilles heel of being harmed by iron, a standard fairy weakness, but I really didn’t need to see a movie where Maleficent has to try and escape the evil king.
“I don’t escape people, people escape ME!”
 The magical land of Moor is your standard CGI rendered world, full of funny creatures and wonderful waterfalls, and is attacked by humans for the simple reason that they are mysterious and magical.
 This is not hard to believe, humans have a long history of attacking what they don’t understand, but when your army finds itself facing twenty foot tree ogres riding giant boars…well maybe you might want to re-think your campaign.
"Green Peace anyone?"
 So turning Maleficent into a sympathetic character didn’t work for me but I will give them credit for their take on “True loves first kiss.” That was a really nice and touching scene.
"But I barely know her."
 This is a hard film to grade because Angelina Jolie is great fun to watch and the fantasy elements of the film are mostly entertaining (Note: This excludes the three fairies who were annoying beyond belief) but being Disney took a villain who is in my number one spot in the lexicon of Disney Top Villains it is hard for me to recommend it. Maleficent to me is the personification of all evil and something that good must overcome, she doesn’t need a tragic back story and certainly not one where it’s “Girl betrayed by boy” as that really takes away from her awesomeness.
 Also I call foul on the fact that Maleficent does not turn into a dragon, her flunkie does. That’s just bullshit. The dragon we get looks pretty cool but isn’t as effective as one would hope.
Now this is how a film should end.

Robocop (2014)

The Hollywood remake machine is still in full swing and as we see more and more of these watered down retreads one wonders if the studio execs will ever stop (Note: That was a totally rhetorical question we all know they won’t). Remaking a popular film is all about “Brand Recognition” where good feelings toward a past good product will hopefully translate to sales on the new one; sadly this does work, well at least for the opening weekend box office, before word of mouth kills it. That opening weekend and Home Video sales mean a remake has better than even shot to at least make its money back or possibly even make a profit. Good or bad doesn’t even figure into it.
Director José Padilha’s 2014 remake of Robocop is not a terrible film, but it certainly isn’t a good one either. Padilha is on record as describing working on this project as “The worst experience of my life” because the studio wouldn’t allow him any creative control over their product. He wanted to make a hard “R” rated film like the original but they forced him to deliver a PG-13 rating to insure a wider audience to recoup the ever expanding budget. So what we were left with was a tepid action film where Robocop runs around armed with Taser Bullets.

Paul Verhoeven‘s 1987 original film was a satiric look at society and consumerism. How corporate greed and crime go hand in hand. Jump ahead to 2014 and that is a harder thing to satirize now because much of what we saw in the original Robocop we now see on the Six O’clock News. Minus the cool robots of course.
 José Padilha’s film, like the original, is set in the near future where a multinational corporation called Omnicorp has produced robot drones and soldiers to police countries all over the world. Robots do “Stop and Frisk” checks as they march down the streets of Tehran and lethally blowing away any threats. The only thing stopping Omnicorp from getting their products out on American streets is the “Dreyfus Act” which will not allow unmanned robots to patrol American cities. CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton) comes up with a workaround. Put a human inside a robot, sway public opinion, get that bill repealed.
Hard to market this as a “Friendly Beat Cop.”
 Enter Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) who is one of the worst written characters I’ve come across in some time. He is the scientist behind Robocop but his motivations are almost non-existent, and his morals swing back and forth like a crazed pendulum. He’s introduced as the altruistic scientist who is using robot prosthetic limbs to help people. A man who lost his hands can now play the guitar again. He is approached by Raymond Sellers, his boss, with this Robocop idea and at first he is against it because he was promised that his work would never be put into military applications.
“I’m more of a confused scientist than an evil one.”
 He is convinced to get on board because the Robocop program will bring in tons of money which can be used for his humanitarian causes. Oldman tries to create a sympathetic character and then the script just jumps the rails and has the good doctor electronically modifying Alex Murphy’s brain so that when in combat mode the human part of him is just along for the ride while the computer is in full control. And later, when Murphy is showing a bit of emotional trauma, he drugs him into a zombie state. Are these the actions of an altruistic humanitarian doctor? These aren’t the actions of any doctor who has even heard of the Hippocratic Oath. Of course in the third act he will rush to Murphy’s aid because he suddenly realizes he’s been a complete ass-hat.
I’m sorry but a flesh hand on a robot is just stupid.
 Let’s talk villains. This film has several but unfortunately they are all lame; CEO Raymond Sellers is the corporate head who doesn’t actually break any laws until he decides to scrap Robocop because his being human could become embarrassing. We have Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow) who is this film’s Clarence Boddicker but aside from failing to kill Alex Murphy (twice), he is a non-entity and certainly not as scary as Kurtwood Smith’s character from the original. Then there is Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley) who runs the military robot program and hates the idea of a human inside a robot. He’s in this movie just to be the Snidely Whiplash dickhead but structurally serves no real purpose to the story.
“Rorschach’s journal, October 13th, 2015 tried to fight a robot…lost.”
 And as for Robocop himself, well Joel Kinnaman does his best with a very unbalanced script. His character has to go from incorruptible hero cop to a man traumatized by being turned into a machine, and then a zombie like automaton when he is brainwashed later in the film. It’s like the writers took elements from the Six Million Dollar Man and tried to graft them onto a world more in keeping with Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. The actual design of Robocop isn’t too bad but I do hate the glowing red Cylon visor. We also spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with his family and as written I couldn’t care less about them.
“I’m sorry honey, I forgot the milk.”
 The original Robocop was about a man who loses his humanity and struggles to get it back, in this remake his character runs into a few bumps along the way but for most of the film’s running time Alex Murphy is still Alex Murphy. We never get that awesome ending (spoilers) where the head of OCP asks, “Nice shooting, son. What’s your name?” and is answered “Murphy.” That’s how you end a movie, that puts a nice punctuation on a hero’s journey to find himself.

“Dead or alive…I mean stunned or asleep you’re coming with me.”
I really wish we could have seen José Padilha’s true vision for Robocop because the one we got has just a couple cool action scenes, is cluttered with characters whose only motivations are to move the story forward whether or not it is logical, and then it ends in an insanely stupid showdown.
Stray Observations:
• A car bomb that detonates when a person is about to get into the car and not when they are actually inside is a poorly designed bomb.
• We are told that the villains all carry heavy enough caliber bullets to kill Robocop. He is hit many, many times and yet they fail to kill him.
• Samuel Jackson as some kind of Bill O’Reilly corporate shill does seem to be having fun.
• Every time this movie quoted lines from the original it just reminded me how much better Verhoeven’s movie is.
• The ending climax where Robocop faces off against evil CEO doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief: Book vs Movie

 It’s not easy adapting a novel to the screen, they are two very different mediums (yeah news flash) and many elements of a book just can’t be translated well into the movie form, but filmmakers will keep fighting to get it right and us the viewers are often caught in the crossfire. In the case of “The Lightning Thief” your enjoyment factor may well hinge on whether you have read the book or not. I know many people who really enjoyed this film and almost all of those people have not read the book, while those who have read it found the movie greatly lacking. So here as a book reader I’ll discuss why the film left me kind of cold.
This is a great book cover.
This is Chris Columbus’s second time adapting a popular children’s fantasy book to the silver screen and what is most interesting is that in the case of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone he was oft critized for being too slavish to the source material so when he took the director’s chair for Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief it appears he decided to go in the other direction. So much is missing from the book I’m hard pressed to decide where to start.
“Maybe I’m Aquaman.”

Percy Jackson: In the book he is a twelve year old troubled kid who bounces from school to school and suffers from dyslexia and ADHA. In the movie he is seventeen, doesn’t seem to have any troubles at school (bullies in the book give him a hard time) but we are told he has dyslexia and ADHA. I’m assuming the change in age is more about fiscal responsibility than an artistic choice. Having young actors in a movie limits you greatly at what you can do and they can only work so many hours a day. After working on Harry Potter with a young cast I can understand Chris Columbus not wanting to go through that again. In the book no one knows he is the son of Poseidon (well one assumes Poseidon does), we get clues along the way; a wave from a fountain attacks a bully, when he is about to get a swirly in the camps washroom the toilets all explode drenching his attackers, but it is when he is healed and power amped by standing in the river that he is revealed to be the son of the sea god.   While in the movie it appears that everyone is aware of who Percy’s dad is and so we are robbed of the dramatic reveal.  Even Percy is kind of blasé about it.
 Grover: Unbeknownst to Percy but his best friend Grover is his protector and also a satyr. The Olympians try and keep an eye on demi-gods because monsters like to track them down and kill them, now in the case of Percy nobody suspects him of being the son of Poseidon because the big three; Zeus, Poseidon and Hades made a vow to not sire anymore children because their offspring are too powerful and upset the balance. So guardians are put with godlings to keep an eye on them in case things get dangerous and eventually lead them to Camp Half-Blood if the threat becomes great. Grover in the book is quite shy and meek but who later reveals his dream to be allowed to search for the missing god Pan. In the movie he is cocky, funny and has no goal other than to become Protector First Class and earn his horns. That’s right in this movie satyrs are basically angels trying to earn their wings.
“Every time a bell rings a satyr gets his horns.”
 Annabeth: She is the daughter of Athena and is introduced in book while she nurses Percy in the camp’s infirmary after he was injured fighting the Minotaur. She is a bit stand-offish because Annabeth’s mom and Percy’s dad have a history of not getting along, but Annabeth gets over this quickly. In the movie she is introduced as an antagonist during a game of “Capture the Flag” and she beats Percy with her sword to with an inch of his life. This is one of the biggest departures from the book because it reveals that Chris Columbus has removed the character of Clarisse daughter of Ares the god of war and who is the camp’s main bully. It is she who fights Percy during Capture the Flag and is defeated when Percy steps back into a stream and is invigorated by the powers of a sea god. This is like if Columbus had decided to leave Draco Malfoy out of Harry Potter. It drastically changes how we feel about Annabeth and we lose an antagonist for the movie. Now Clarisse isn’t a major character in the first book but she becomes one in the second books so she had to be introduced in the movie version of the sequel.
Why is this scene not in this movie?
The Plot: In the book Percy is accused of stealing Zeus’s Master Bolt and if he doesn’t return it by the Summer Solstice there will be war between the gods. This is still the basic plot of the movie but it is very much sidelined at the half-way point as the movie becomes a scavenger hunt for Persephone’s pearls the plan to rescue Percy’s mom.  In the book Percy plans to confront Hades and get his mother back but that is something he keeps close to his vest as everyone else is focusing on getting the Master Bolt back and preventing the war while Movie Percy is all about getting his mom and hang everybody else.

All I could think of was someone liked the Horcrux hunts in the Harry Potter books and thought it would work great here. It doesn’t.  In the movie a demonic fiery Hades shows up at Camp Half-Blood to demand Percy hand over the Lightning Bolt if he wants his mother released from the Underworld. In the book Hades doesn’t want the Bolt he actually doesn’t want war as the Underworld is getting too crowded. What he does want is his Helm of Darkness which was also stolen. His missing helm is also missing from the movie version.
 Percy goes on this mission to the Underworld get his mother back from Hades not because he thinks Hades as the Bolt as book Percy and most everyone else believes. In the movie Percy sneaks out of the camp, against orders from Chiron, to go rescue his mother unlike the book where he is given the quest to find the stolen Bolt by the Oracle.

 Luke: Is the son of Hermes and he really, really hates the gods. Movie Luke pretends to befriend Percy and offers him aid on his mission to save his mom, he tells our heroes of Persephone’s pearls and that they are basically a “Get Out of the Underworld Free Cards” and that there are three of these pearls hidden in the United States and once you get into Hades you step on one of those Pearls and they will whisk you away. In the book the pearls are a gift from a naiad and not the basis for half the movies running time. Luke also gifts Percy with winged sneakers as well as a map that reveals the pearls’ locations and where the entrance to the Underworld is.

“I’m the son of a thieving trickster god, of course I’m trustworthy.”
Luke is the biggest change from book to movie. Both versions hate the gods but in the movie he is the sole villain. In the book there is a shadowy voice in Percy’s dreams that we learn is Cronus the Titan and father of the gods. The whole plan with the stolen lightning bolt and Percy going to the Underworld is all part of his plot to escape the deep abyss of Tartarus. The winged shoes where to drag Percy into the pits once he got close enough. In both movie and book it is Luke that stole the Master Bolt but in the book he failed in getting it to Cronus as he was caught by Ares. Cronus had to alter his plan by whispering thoughts of war to Ares, convincing the god of war to slip Percy the Master Bolt saying that when Percy brings it to Hades it will be all out war among the gods. In the movie Ares barely exists, you just see him sitting among the gods at the Olympian council meeting. Leaving Cronus and Ares out of this movie is like leaving the Emperor and Darth Vader out of Star Wars.
“Well it’s no lightsabre, but I like it.”
 Hades: In the book he is a very pragmatic character who may be a little miffed at being the one saddled with running the Underworld but he has no desire to rule the other gods as he does in the movie, he actually wants to avoid war because he can barely keep up with all the dead coming in as it is. Book Hades is miffed because someone stole his Helm of Darkness and thinks Percy has taken it as well as the Master Bolt. Hades just wants his helm back and will free Percy’s mom if he gets it. Percy uses the three pearls so he, Annabeth and Grover can escape the Underworld get the bolt back to Zeus while leaving Percy’s mom behind. This is very different from the movie as there Grover stays behind to apparently make time with Persephone.  When Hades gets the Helm back he does free Percy’s mom clearly showing that though he may be a ruler of the dead but that doesn’t make him a dick.
Hands up those that wish this Hades had shown up.
 Ares: As mentioned he isn’t even really in the movie version. In the book he is this scary looking biker dude that, like Luke, pretends to be helping Percy but in fact is trying to start a war because, you know, he is the god of war. The movie ends with Percy having this big Master Bolt vs Water Power battle with Luke while in the book it is Percy facing off against ARES THE GOD OF WAR that allows him to get the bolt and helm back to their proper owners. This is a much more terrifying match up than teen sea god against snotty camp counselor.
“Hold off a second, I just have to text this review to Athena.”
 A Few Other Missteps:
• Percy in the school pool stays underwater for seven minutes and just thinks he can do this because he loves being in water. Not the brightest bulb in the box.
• At the museum Percy is listening to his iPod and ignoring the lecture about the Greek gods given by his favorite teacher, this does not help make the character likable.
• Movie Percy has to get whispered help from Poseidon all the time while book Percy figures things out for himself.
• The Underworld has only one setting “Fiery Hell” and no Elysium, Asphodel, Tartarus, or Fields of Punishment.
• Persephone is not in the book because the Summer Solstice would not find her living with Hades.
Chris Columbus hasn’t made a terrible movie I just have a hard time understanding the reasoning behind most of the changes he made, especially the removal of Cronus who is the main villain of the series.

Superman Returns: A Failed Love Story

After giving us two really excellent comic book movies; X-Men and X2: X-Men United Bryan Singer left the budding franchise to make Superman Returns, and the genre took a bit of a step back. I believe the biggest problem with this film is that it was a love letter to the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeves films and it is this love that causes it to fail because Superman Returns neither works as a sequel nor stands on its own. I will give Singer credit for making a Superman film that doesn’t bother with another rendition of the origin story but then he ruins that by taking certain elements of the Donner film that would have been better left forgotten i.e. The Kiss of Forgetfulness.
Clark hitting the Superman II reset button.
 In Bryan Singer’s film Superman (Brandon Routh doing his best Christopher Reeve impression) has been missing for five years as he’s been off looking for remains of an exploded Krypton (That the defines the term “waste of time”) and when finally returns he discover Lois has a five year old son. This is very disturbing because we later learn that it is Superman’s but Lois wouldn’t know that, well until the kid chucks a piano, because the one time she and Supes had sex has been erased from her memory. So she had this kid without a clue as to who the father was or how she even got pregnant. We have to hope that around the time she slept with Superman she was maybe seeing Richard White (James Marsden) on the side so she wouldn’t think she had some kind of Immaculate Conception.
A little Super Afternoon Delight.
One of my biggest complaints about the Superman movie universe is that the Fortress of Solitude is possible the most inaccurately named thing in the universe. IT DOESN’T EVEN HAVE DOORS! What part of fortress do these writers not understand?  People just waltz right in and screw around with his shit. In the original comics he had to use a giant key that only someone with Super Strength could lift and then in All Star Superman we see it as a small key laying right in front of the door but it’s made out of immensely heave dwarf star matter.
 Even his computer has terrible security. In both Superman II and Superman Returns Lex Luthor strolls on in, pops in a crystal and then starts asking questions. WTF? So not only does Luthor “break” in to the Fortress of Solitude twice but good ole Jor-El’s computer program just coughs up sensitive information without even asking for a password.
"Son, what happened to your hair?"
You would think an advance alien race would have a computer system that could tell if the person standing in front of it was in fact Superman or at least be able to tell the difference between a kyrptonian and a human. Basically all the destruction in Superman Returns can all be laid at Superman’s feet on the grounds of gross negligence.
   “I learned to make these in prison.”
 Speaking of Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey who is the best casting choice in the movie) we run into another major problem with the story, his plan is terrible, even dumber than dropping California into the ocean and hoping no one notices. In this film he gets some crystals and information from the ever talkative Jor-El and this sets him off on a plan to create a continent from which he can, I don’t know, rule the world? He gloats about how this new continent will displace enough water to flood much of the world leaving him sitting pretty with tons of kyrptonian technology to back him up. The problem is we see none of this.

  His continent is rather small and a bit of a shit hole.
When it rises out of the ocean it causes Metropolis a bit of a bother with a minor quake that Superman handles with ease, but where is that rushing water we were promised? Even an island as small as we see it should still cause massive tsunamis that would lay waste to the coastline. And what about this super science that the kyrptonian crystals were to bestow on Lex? Bupkis. Not one kyrptonian weapon or defense systems is seen, which would pretty much guarantee that Lex’s rule would last for as long as it takes the nearest Navy vessel to arrive and blow him to kingdom come. Even if this didn’t happen who would want to live in this bleak hellscape? What kind of rent could Lex charge on a place like that? It doesn’t even seem to have any soil so you’d have to import food and being you supposedly just wiped out much of Americas heartland that could be tricky.
“Is the the place to audition for Newsies?“
  Why the world doesn’t need Superman” This is the title of Lois Lane’s (Kate Bosworth Pulitzer Prize winning article and is more fitting as maybe an editorial in small college campus paper (Note: Miss Bosworth does look like she just got out of college and certainly not like the Lois Lane from the Donner films who at least looked like a grown-up). Sure the world doesn’t need Superman but he is really nice to have around when planes fall out of the sky and natural or man-made disasters threaten the lives of thousands. Without Superman the world and humanity would trundle on but with a slightly elevated casualty amount. Now in the case of Lois Lane personally that’s a completely different story, I’m not sure how she survived the five years Superman was off in space

Now there are many good moments in this movie; the shuttle disaster where Superman saves Lois and a plane full of reporters is pure awesomeness, his walking into mini-gun fire and taking one in the eye was boss, and his flying around Metropolis during the earthquake was decent Superman stuff. Sadly those nice moments are undercut by a superhero who turns out to be a deadbeat dad that is now stalking his ex-girlfriend that he mind wiped years ago.

 More Super-Fails
• No one wonders why Clark never answered emails or phone calls for those five years that Superman was off in space.
• On the farm Clark Kent’s dog wants to play fetch, Clark throws ball into the next county. What a dick.
• Whines, “I’m still Superman!” as he gets his ass kicked by Lex Luthor. This is not a very heroic moment.
• Superman lands and walks around on an island made of kryptonite and does not notice this fact until he is punched.
• Space Jesus
Seriously, no more Christ metaphors.

 So as a loving tribute to a classic seventies superhero movie it kind of drops the ball, and as a stand-alone Superman movie it’s saddled with too much baggage for it to work, but Bryan Singer is still a talented director and at no point are you bored during this film. Also Superman never kills anyone during it’s entire running time so it does have that over certain other men of steel.