Friday, April 16, 2010

Clash of the Titans

The original Clash of the Titans is one of my all time favorite movies ever made of all time ever ever ever. It's just... fun, has lots of monsters, great characters, amazing special effects, and oodles of charm. It's probably in my top twenty favorite films or so, and is the kind of film I can rewatch anytime, anywhere, over and over again.

So this remake had some pretty big shoes to fill. And, no, it didn't entirely live up to the original, but it was a pretty good attempt all things considered. I liked it and thought that had it not been a remake -- or, at least, if I wasn't such a huge fan of the original -- it probably would've worked great when taken on its own, completely in a vacuum. But it was a remake, and therefore comparisons are going to be made.

Just to see how well (or poorly) it compares, I'm going to break things down into the most memorable (to me) story components that define a Clash of the Titans film:

Our Heroes:
To be honest, both films have duds for leading men. Sam Worthington has been in every movie I've seen lately, just like back in 2002-2003 when Colin Farrell was in every movie that came out and nobody really understood why. Seven or Eight years from now, we'll probably look back on this whole Sam Worthington business with the same confusion as we now look back on Colin Farrell. What's the last movie that guy did anyway? And Harry Hamlin is Harry Hamlin. He was a soap opera caliber actor who somehow lucked his way into a starring role, albeit in a silly action movie about Greek mythology.

I'm guessing both actors got the roles because they look good in togas. But Hamlin looks a little better in togas, and even though he's no better an actor than Worthington, at least he has charm and charisma in spades.
Winner: Classic

The Supporting Cast:
Both films make up for the poor casting of the hero by having awesome supporting actors in various roles, both big and small. The original film spent all over their budget on the incredible pantheon of Gods: Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Claire Bloom as Hera, and Maggie Smith as Thetis, and Ursula Andress as Aphrodite. But best of all was Burgess Meredith as Ammon, giving a stellar, almost Shakespearean performance in a film about stop motion monsters.

The remake has Liam Neeson as Zeus, who I suppose is as good a replacement for Laurence Olivier than anybody else working today. Ralph Fiennes is fun to watch as Hades. And... that's it for the Gods. There were some other gods walking around -- I even saw Dr. Bashir at one point dressed as... somebody! -- but nobody else had anything to do. Missed opportunities there. No Angelina Jolie as Aphrodite? No Kevin Costner as Poseidon? At the very least they should've had a cameo by Maggie Smith, who is still a great actress. Maybe she was too busy making the next Harry Potter movie.

The remake fared better in the casting of the soldiers I guess, with an awesome performance by Mads Mikkelsen as maybe the best bad ass Greek solider in the history of toga movies. He was awesome. And we also saw Pete Postlethwaite for about five seconds, which wasn't nearly long enough. When I saw him make an entrance, I thought for sure he was going to play the Burgess Meredith role, which would've been awesome. But, alas, he didn't, nor did anybody else for that matter, which is a shame because he added a depth and sense of humanity to the storty that kept it grounded in some kind of realism.
Winner: Classic

The Story:
For the most part, both have similar stories: Perseus has to kill Medusa to stop the Kraken from killing Andromeda and destroying all of Argos. The original kept things pretty simple as a hero's quest to fulfill his destiny and stop the big monster. The remake added a lot of subtext, additional characterization for the heroes and gods, and layered the conflicts so you were never quite sure who was right, who was wrong, and what was going on. And none of that really worked in my opinion.

To begin with, Perseus is a demigod in both films, having Zeus for his father and a human for his mother. The original film deals with this as the myths do: Like this is a perfectly normal thing that happens, albeit making Perseus special and blessed by the gods and humans alike. In the remake, they approached it with a 21st century mindset that he should be conflicted about which side to choose, wanting to prove himself as a human wile denying his godhood, etc. This is a very clever and brilliant addition to the story that works perfectly on paper but is completely pointless. I don't want to watch a guy struggle with his emotions, I want to watch him slice and dice gorgons. And the whole plot about the god letting Hades torture humans to rally them to pry for help made little sense too, especially since it made both Zeus and Hades the villains, even though only Hades was actually the villain because Zeus was secretly helping Perseus along... or something. I don't know. It made no sense.
Winner: Classic

The Babes:
The original film has Ursula Andress as Aphrodite, which is perfect casting. Have the most beautiful woman on the planet play the most beautiful of the goddesses. And even more radiant was Judi Bowker as Andromeda. I fell in love with her as a kid and I'm still in love with her today.

The remake has Alexa Davalos as Andromeda, who serves no function in the story and isn't even the love interest of Perseus. So when the chain her up to be sacrificed to the Kraken, we have no real reason to care. How did they mess that up so bad? She was very pretty, but she was no Judi Bowker, and she looked a lot hotter in that Chronicles of Riddick movie. Much better, and more lovely, was Gemma Arterton as Io. I never really understood her character, but at least she was given a lot to do and even got to kick some ass.

Oh, and Attia from that HBO show Rome was in it. For about five seconds. She got real old and kind of chubby. Sorry.
Winner: Classic

The Monsters:
And here's what we all really care about, right? Which film has the best monsters. What wins, the CG or the stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen? Let's look at each set piece in more detail:

The Scorpions:
Giant scorpions are disgusting and horrifying, but I have to give the nod to the remake, since this was definitely the best sequence in the movie. The CG was perfect and the entire scene was exciting and action-packed. Also, the scorpions were absolutely terrifying and gross. They looked real.
Winner: Remake

Cerberus wasn't in the remake, so the classic wins by default.
Winner Classic:

This one is tricky, since the Medusa in both films looked awesome and terrifying. The CG version in the remake definitely looked more "real," and the decision to make her face still look beautiful was interesting and quite effective. The Medusa in the original was just a grotesque monster. The CG version actually had a bit more life and personality. However... the classic scene was better because the setting was better, the sequence was better directed, and the suspense was killer.
Winner: Draw

The Kraken:
The Kraken in the finale of the original Clash of the titans wasn't Ray Harryhausen's best work. It was well done and had his signature look and charm, but the design just looked like a reptilian King Kong. It's an awesome scene, but it just wasn't up there with the best work of his career. But the Kraken in the remake was off the hook. Now that was a monster! Also, the sequence was just a bit more exciting, with an areal battle between Perseus and some harpies flying in and around the Kraken's writhing tentacles. It was cool. The only problem was how the director kept the camera in so close we never really got a good establishing shot showing the Kraken's true size. He should've pulled back just a bit.
Winner: Remake

Overall Winner: Classic

The remake had amazing special effects, great, creative design work, and a fun cast, but the story was too muddled and the suspense just wasn't there for the most part. They overthought things and tried to be serious when they should've been more fun. But it as still a cool movie that was exciting and cool. But it just didn't have the heart of the original.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Video Clip: Arnold's Best Lines

This is awesome:

Titans edit.

I edited my Arnold vs. Sly post to add a category based on total box office totals. It is interesting reading, but it didn't change the end result. Stallone is still the best.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Clash of the Titans: Arnold Vs. Sly

This is probably the most important blog post anybody has ever written.

And, no, I'm not talking about that new movie (or even that old movie). I'm talking about the clash of the real titans: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, arguably the two greatest action stars of all time. Both have made their mark on film history and popular culture, but whose legacy reigns supreme? Who is the greatest action star of all time? Who is the coolest actor ever?

Let's find out by taking a close look at each actor in a few different categories, awarding points based on each round. Even I don't know who's going to win this one. Let's get right to it:

Acting Talent:
Let's just get this one out of the way. This is either the most important talent for an action star or the most irrelevant. I'm not sure which. Both of these two are underrated actors in my opinion. That isn't to say they are both master class thespians, but they both have a lot of talent that make them more than the mindless, musclebound dolts many people would lead you to believe they are.

Stallone has been nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for crying out loud, in 1977 alongside William Holden and Robert De Niro, all of whom lost out to Peter Finch for Network. He was also nominated for the Golden Globe that same year, and a slew of other awards. Since Rocky, his nominations have been few and far between, but it's still better than Arnold, who ain't won shit except an MTV movie award for T2 and a Kid's Choice Award for Kindergarten Cop.

On the other hand, Sly has "won" more Razzies than Arnold (8 to Arnold's 1), including the distinction of winning their "Worst Actor of the Century" award. Ouch.

Winner: Stallone. Nobody can match Arnold's effortless charm, but when it comes to the actual craft of acting, creating characters, and giving nuanced performances, Stallone wins hands down, even if only for his amazing performance in Rocky.

Both men are huge, incredible athletes, but only one was Mr. Olympia... seven times in a row. Arnold Schwarzenegger was arguably the greatest bodybuilder of all time, but it's no question he was the most famous. Also, Arnold is 6'2" while Sly is 5'9". You could argue that makes Sly more lithe and agile, but that would just be silly. At the end of the day, Stallone makes a very convincing boxer or green beret, but Schwarzenegger looks like he could catch a missile in his teeth.

And while neither actor can really be considered classically handsome, Schwarzenegger's Austrian features are simply more imposing and regal. He looks like a cyborg or a Cimmerian Warrior. Sly just looks like a broken down boxer from South Philly.

Winner: Arnold.

Signature Roles:
Both men have two major characters/series to their credit: Sly has Rocky and Rambo while Arnold has Conan and the Terminator. Sly's character's are arguably more iconic and better known. Rocky and Rambo are household terms. As is the Terminator to a certain extent, but as much for the skeletal robots as for the Arnold character. And while Schwarzenegger was perfectly cast as Conan the Barbarian, the character was already world famous from the Robert E. Howard stories and the Marvel comics. One might even argue that the depictions of the character in the drawings of John Buscema or the paintings by Frank Frazetta are as indelible in the public memory of the character as Arnold's depiction.

But at the end of the day, Stallone is Rocky and, to a lesser extent, Rambo. Nobody ever made any sequels or remakes to Rocky and Rambo without Stallone. The very idea of such a thing is ridiculous. But Conan was a character before Arnold and he is still character long after he stopped playing him. And they keep cranking out Terminator movies, TV shows, and comics, a lot of which are vastly superior than Part 3.

Winner: Stallone. You could make the argument that the Terminator is the best movie villain of all time, but Rocky is arguably the best hero. And the hero always wins.

Filmmaking: This is a tricky category, and it basically only exists because Stallone has written and directed so many of his own films. Schwarzenegger has never written anything so far as I know, and has only directed one episode of Tales From the Crypt and a made for TV movie that was terrible. So maybe he has no real interest in filmmaking beyond simply acting, and that's fine. But I would be remiss if I didn't give props to Sly for being... well... a perfectly adequate director of top notch action films. His is a style that is best suited to movies like Rocky 4, where the characters have already been firmly established by better directors in previous films and where the plots move forward only through musical montages. Had he directed Schindler's List, there would've been a lot more musical montages of Liam Neeson working out in his factory while steam and smoke billowed in the background. Also, Hitler would've been played by Mr. T.

And he is also a wonderful writer, believe it or not. He even received his second Academy Award nomination for Rocky. He was actually only the third filmmaker to receive nominations for acting and writing in the same year, after Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin. Arnold has certainly never done anything over the entire course of his career that could garner him any kind of comparison to either of those two legends.

Winner: Stallone.

Body Count: 
I'm not going to count how many people have died in all of their films, but that's only because I don't have to. Stallone made the Rambo movies. In the fourth film alone he probably killed off more people that the Terminator did over the course of three movies. Just watch this scene:

Winner: Stallone. Stallone has killed about a billion people in his films. Still... he's never killed a Predator, but then again, he's never been given the chance. I think Rambo could take a Predator. And why has nobody made that movie? Stop cranking out those terrible Alien Vs Predator movies and start making Rambo Vs Predator already.

Overall Film Oeuvre:
Now, here is where things are going to get somewhat tricky and subjective. I'm going to rank each actor's films into two categories: Those I consider to be good to great, and those I consider to be absolute pieces of garbage, and then weigh the two to see who comes out on top. It's hardly scientific, but it's not as though this is my PhD thesis or anything.

Arnold's Good to Great films are:

Conan the Barbarian
The Terminator
The Running Man
Total Recall
Kindergarten Cop (yeah, that's right.)
True Lies
The Sixth Day (Why not? It was pretty good, even if it was the worst on this list.

Total Count: 11. Amazing list of films all things considered. T2 in particular is the best action/science fiction film ever made.

Stallone's Good to Great films are:

Rocky II

Rocky III
First Blood
Rambo: First Blood Part 2
Rocky IV
Lock Up
Rambo 3
Demolition Man
Cop Land
Rocky Balboa

Total Count: 15. Sly's total count was higher, but the level of quality of Arnold's films may be just a little higher. I was being fairly generous with a few of Stallone's films (like Lock Up and Rambo 3) because they are ridiculously entertaining and awesome, even if they aren't all that well made. But, again, Rocky is one of the greatest films ever made, and First Blood is one of the most perfect action films.

Arnold's Garbage:

Hercules in New York
Red Sonja
Raw Deal
Red Heat
Last Action Hero
Jingle All the Way
Batman and Robin

Total Count: 9. Sure, these are all terrible, unwatchable movies, but 9 is a respectable number of mistakes, considering his imdb filmography lists 41 acting credits.

Stallone's Garbage: (and I'm skipping over everything he did before Rocky, since he was young and broke and desperate. Arnold was never any of those things.)

Over the Top
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
The Specialist
Judge Dredd
Get Carter
Spy Kids 3-D

Total Count: 13. These are some terrible films. Still, at least he never made a movie with Sinbad.

Winner: Draw. They both have made a bunch of great films and a bunch of shit. At the end of the day, if Rocky and T2 were the only two films I was allowed to watch for the rest of my life, I'd be ok with that.

Overall Box Office Totals:
By no means should money equal success or any kind of mark of quality, but it does go toward showing a person's success both as a box office draw and as a popular figure in film history. Needless to say, but men have achieved incredible success and made a lot of people a lot of money. But here are the breakdowns according to Box Office Mojo:

(And just remember that none of these totals are adjusted for inflation, so this is hardly scientific.)


Overall film grosses: $1,639,909,420
Average film gross: $49,694,225
Total number of films over 100 million: 5
Highest grossing film: Rambo: First Blood Part II: $150,415,432 (US only.)


Overall film grosses: $1,621,940,362
Average film gross: $70,519,146
Total number of films over 100 million:  7
Highest grossing film: Terminator 2: $204,843,345

Winner: Schwarzenegger. While Stallone's films have made $17 million more than Schwarzenegger's, that's really not very impressive considering the totals are based on 33 of Stallone's films opposed to 23 of Schwarzenegger's. Adjusted for inflation and considering rentals, things might be different, but I bet Arnold would still come out on top. It's close, but Arnold has always been the bigger box office draw for a longer period of time.

Where Are they Now:
Well, Schwarzenegger is Governor of California... which is cool for him, but lame for us. I have no idea if he's a good Governor nor do I care. I just want to see him cranking out movies. Still, had he stayed in Hollywood, maybe he would've done a bunch of shit like D-Tox and Spy Kids 3-D too.

As for Stallone, he's still making awesome, kick ass action movies! Stallone got a lot of attention for coming back to the Terminator franchise a few years ago, but Stallone said "fuck it" and made another Rocky and another Rambo. And then this year we've got the Expendables, which is going to be the best movie ever made. And according to the imbd, he's making another Rambo movie! What's next? A sequel to Over the Top? I'd watch it.

Winner: Stallone. While Arnold went legit, Stallone stayed the course and kept kicking ass.

Overall Winner: Sylvester Stallone.

All things considered, Schwarzenegger might have a more "respectable" resume, with some of the all time best action films and a few pretty good family films, but Stallone just kicks too much ass. He's a better actor, he's a great writer and director, and even though he stumbled a few times over the course of his career (ok... a lot of times), he never lost site of what the fans want: Rocky and Rambo kicking ass and taking names. That's why he's the greatest action star of all time.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Expendables

The Expendables is probably going to be the best movie ever made. It's an upcoming action movie written, directed, and starring Sylvester Stallone, featuring Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and has cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I had to wait until I was 33 and it was the 21st century, but my long-held childhood dream of seeing Sly and Arnold in the same film is finally coming true. I'm stoked to see this. It's going to be a good, old fashioned, 2D beat 'em up movie starring the greatest Action star of all time.

Check out the trailer here.