Tag Archives: adventure

What Fight the Panda Syndicate Means to Me.

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By Christopher Pickhardt

Just about ten years ago, in 2006, my best friends and I embarked on a grand creative journey. Out of the blue, we decided to form a production company (Crazy Elk Productions) and produce an independent film called ‘Fight the Panda Syndicate,’ an ambitious dark comic adventure film that consumed the better part of six years of our lives. It was  an amazing creative experience for us that I can look back on with a great sense of accomplishment (as I was heavily involved in its making in the form of co-writer, co-producer, actor and co-editor, among many other hats alongside director Jason J. Dale).

It was a monumental task producing an ambitious project like this on such a shoestring budget, but with that challenge came tremendous rewards. Now that the film is in the can and we are past the film festival submission wormhole, we are actively looking to get the film out into the world; which is a whole other challenge in itself, but one that has greater chances of success than it did just a few short years ago, when you consider the advent of the digital distribution age we find ourselves in. I feel good about the future of this film and look forward to the world feasting their eyes on it.

I felt it was apropos to share an essay that I wrote back in 2009 as we were knee-deep into production on this film, for it really provides a window into the world of independent filmmaking and into the soul of the grassroots artist. Additionally, make sure to check out the film’s trailer below the essay, which I have included for your joyous perusal…

  What Fight the Panda Syndicate Means to ME

We have had a motto that has somewhat guided us since we began this journey on ‘Fight the Panda Syndicate’: what we lack in budget, we make up for in creativity. Given our meager resources I am very proud of what we have produced thus far. Lacking a large nest egg to cushion us, we have been forced to really get imaginative with how we have been making this film. Whether it is stretching the dollar to limits unseen by fund raising and bargain hunting or throwing away all conventional ways of storytelling and production, we have slaved since day one to achieve our filmmaking dreams. And as we watch the film come together in the editing process, like pieces of a puzzle, we stand behind another motto, one we adopted around the same time as the prior: ‘Fight the Panda Syndicate’ is the greatest independent film ever made. A bold statement to be sure, and one ‘El Mariachi’ fans may dispute, but never the less, one I will stand behind until the day I die.

It is hard to put into words what ‘Fight the Panda Syndicate’ means to me. How do you express a love this strong in words? I can honestly say I have never loved anything as much as this film. IT is my baby, my passion and the single most important thing in my life. My best friends and I have been working on this film for over two years now, going on three this summer. We have spent countless hours producing this project: discussing, planning, shooting, sweating, problem solving, bleeding and pressing on, as obstacle after obstacle, problem after problem, and antagonist after fucking antagonist has attempted to get in our way. We will not be deterred, not by the naysayers, the worrywarts, the assorted Riff-Raff, the inevitable financial woes or any other unforeseen force that is always working against this film. But, that is the life of the filmmaker and even on big budget films; there are nothing but obstacles and problems to address. So one must just keep their chin up and soldier on.

‘Fight the Panda Syndicate’ will be finished this year and then everyone can finally see the fruits of our labor, which is an independent film like no other. It is a film that transcends genres, is rich with character, ripe with humor, filled with action and danger and is truly a passion-filled ‘labor of love’ that started with four friends sitting around a kitchen table one night discussing ‘what if?’ This grand experiment, for lack of a better word, has grown into a family of creative artists over 400 strong from all over the north east. We are building a creative revolution, a collaboration of not only artists, but friends, who together are helping each other achieve their personal goals while striving for greater heights creatively and personally. This film is just the beginning of something truly remarkable, for it signifies that anything can be done no matter how impossible the odds against its success are and that if you work TOGETHER, ANYTHING can be achieved. ‘Fight the Panda Syndicate’ is just the first of many creative endeavors we will be working on together in all artistic realms in and out of film.

I sometimes find myself in disbelief at all we have accomplished. It is truly daunting to think of all we have been through since we started this film back in 2006. I pinch myself at times just to make sure this surreal dream is indeed a reality and not a sick Matrix-type joke I have been sleeping through. My dreams are unfolding before my eyes, almost too fast, and I find myself struggling to keep my mind on anything else. I can honestly say that ninety percent of the time I am not here; I am lost in my dream world physically present, but mentally on another plain going a hundred miles a minute in the idea super-highway. It is a place I don’t ever want to leave. Why would I want to?

This has been one HELL of a ride, filled with DRAMA the likes of which I have never experienced in my life. It is as if a door was opened into another world once production began on this film, bringing forth both great and terrible experiences; leaving our lives behind the scenes resembling a movie in itself. We have been through SO much these last couple years, both creatively and personally. Almost everyone involved with this project has had to deal with some pretty heavy shit, but we are still going strong, still fighting the good fight to get this thing finished. I am happy to say we are closer to the end than ever before with a rough cut actually in sight. The excitement is starting to brew, for nobody really has any idea what is in store for them! I am so excited for everyone I know and love to see this film that I feel high all the time, like I am floating along on a current of intense positive energy.

I am very thankful to God for the amazing family and close-knit circle I have been blessed with; I could not have asked for anything better. Without my belief in God and the strength that gives me and us each day, we would not have gotten through half the madness we have overcome. It is through faith and hope and the memory of my Mom that guided us through some of the hardest and darkest days and into the bright clearing we are at today. We have learned a lot and also gained much more wisdom these last couple of years; I know I am a better person because of it all.

In the end, experience builds strength, which in turn creates wisdom, which finally influences our character and makes us the enlightened people we are meant to be. I look forward to all the wonderful experiences the future has in store for us as we embark on a continuing quest for creative Zen – a place we can truly reach if we continue to work hard and to BELIEVE. And we will, I know it…right here in northern New Jersey, right under our noses; who knew?

Below, is the link to the film’s trailer:

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The Revenant

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Review:

The Revenant

***1/2 stars (of 4)

By Christopher Pickhardt

The magnificent trailer for The Revenant that was released last year featured breathtaking visuals of the American wilderness inter-cut with harrowing action, a bearded Leonardo DiCaprio, the gruff-looking Tom Hardy and a harsh story-line of revenge, all underscored by the growing sound of breathing. It is this most vital intake of oxygen that serves as the key theme of this captivating and immersive film.

As anyone who has seen the trailer is aware, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Hugh Glass (loosely based on a real life fur trapper) is attacked by a bear and left for dead by his fellow outdoors-man John Fitzgerald (played by the always amazing and ferocious Tom Hardy). This is the basis for the film’s survival/revenge tale, which slowly unfolds before us with some of the most beautiful footage you will ever see on film. Visually this film is an unparalleled masterpiece which should net a third Oscar in a row for Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who is on an amazing hot streak (having received Academy Awards for last year’s Birdman and 2013’s Gravity) and will most likely produce a second in a row award for director Alejandro G. Inarritu (who collaborated with Lubezki on 2014’s best picture Birdman).

The Revenant may also win a best picture Oscar this year as well, especially given that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made that very proclamation themselves at this past Sunday’s Golden Globes telecast. It certainly appears as though the blood, sweat and tears and apparent misery the cast and crew endured while making this film are paying off. The accolades, praise and award chatter the film has been receiving are understandable. There is so much excellence on display throughout the film’s two and a half hours that it is almost daunting to absorb.

The Revenant is definitely one of those films that will stay with you and linger in your mind for days, as the best moments are replayed all over again like a cinematic highlight reel. I was absorbed by the film’s ghostly atmosphere, with the vast expanse of the snowy mountains and bleak dark clouds overhead. I was sucked in by the tempered music, which featured the sound of a bell that rang softly in the background, underscoring the harrowing extreme conditions of our hero’s journey – both emotionally and physically. And I was awe-struck by the gorgeous photography that was painstakingly captured solely by natural light. No artificial lighting rigs were used to make this film, so you can imagine how long it took to get some of these amazing action sequences in the can – especially the scenes that featured long uninterrupted takes! Truly this is a feat of filmmaking if ever there was one and I would wager that not many productions can match this piece of work. The technical achievements of this film are the elements that impressed me the most, as the story is fairly simple. However, it is the way that Inarritu tells this story that makes it fresh and engaging to an audience that has seen everything – except nobody has seen anything like The Revenant. Few films have featured photography this stunning (except for maybe in a Terrence Malick film) or showcased the majesty of nature to such an extreme degree or delivered a grizzly bear fight that looked SO REAL that it is hard to fathom how the hell it was filmed. Everyone on this film pushed themselves and their creativity to the limit and each and every performer (both behind and in front of the camera) was one their game.

There is a lot of Oscar buzz floating around Leonardo DiCaprio for his work in this film and I expect it to intensify now that he has won the Golden Globe for this part. It was a deserved win for a terrific performance, but a fairly quiet one. DiCaprio did most of his acting with his eyes, speaking very little and carrying the film with a relatable determination of a man on a mission. DiCaprio surely gave his all for this part; having worn that scraggly beard for two years, slept inside an animal carcass and even ate a raw buffalo liver on-screen. That is dedication. This is definitely one of Leonardo’s best performances, but not THE best in my opinion.

I really felt he deserved the Oscar for The Wolf of Wall Street. That was such a layered crazy performance that really showed a range and aptitude for comedy that we have never seen him exhibit before. If he does win this year I believe it will be a political win, given that there is a consensus that he has been overlooked and snubbed time and again. I do not disagree with that sentiment; the man is an incredible and reliable actor, who works his ass off on every film. I do not think anyone can ever accuse him of being lazy or phoning in a performance. I frankly do not get all the legions of Leo haters out there. You can’t rip someone apart continually because you did not like Titanic. The guy is a great actor.

Speaking of great actors, Tom Hardy, that powerhouse of a presence almost steals the movie, playing Fitzgerald, a ruthless rival fur trapper who cares only for himself, and manipulates the other members of the hunting party. One of his pawns is a younger naive man, Bridger (Will Poulter) who reluctantly goes along with Fitzgerald’s egregious act of abandoning Glass (DiCaprio) because he is not up to the task of standing up to the intimidating will of Fitzgerald, who is determined to get back to the fur trapping company’s fort to obtain his payment for this rough journey’s work. Hardy’s character is a guy who is not keen on authority and resents Glass, who has served as the company’s tracker as they travel through the wild in a six-month long quest for fur. Hardy’s Fitzgerald considers DiCaprio’s Glass a lousy guide who he alleges has led their party to considerable ruin and basically wants to cash out as soon as possible instead of traveling by foot through the mountains in an effort to avoid the Pawnee Indians who are in pursuit.

Fitzgerald also holds contempt for the company’s fair but stern leader, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), who Fitzgerald believes is mistaken for placing the company’s bounty of fur and their survival in the hands of a tracker that he deems incompetent. It is this building tension followed by that amazing grizzly bear attack (and one other major event I will not spoil) that serve as the catalysts for the film’s second act and eventual bloody conclusion.

In closing, I will reiterate that this is a marvelously made film with a bounty of texture and beauty, where every shot is a painting and every moment nuanced to perfection. In essence The Revenant is an art house film with a studio budget – truly a rarity in today’s blockbuster-hungry film climate. As I mentioned earlier, the theme of breathing or staying alive in other words, is a major thread throughout this film. Glass instills in his half-Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) the idea that “if you can breathe, you can fight.” And as Glass struggles to survive from one potentially fatal obstacle to another on his vengeful journey, those words are echoed all around him – especially as he sees visions of his late wife and hears her voice guiding HIM through the darkness. Perhaps we can all take that message to heart during times of crisis. There is a lot of truth to that statement. If we can breathe, we most assuredly can fight. So as long as air is passing through our lungs, no obstacles are too large. All we need is the drive to push ourselves to the limit. Just like the makers of The Revenant did.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

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Review:
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
**** stars (of 4)

By Christopher Pickhardt

There is no other way to say it, Mad Max: Fury Road is ABSOLUTELY MIND-BLOWING! This film is EVERYTHING you have been wanting and SO MUCH MORE! If you are like me and have been eagerly awaiting another installment of the iconic Mad Max franchise with baited breath, you can now rest easy because George Miller’s long-in-development opus has finally arrived for us to consume with glee.

Let me first just begin by saying that all the waiting and false starts on the road to this film’s completion have been totally worth it. George Miller has outdone himself with this incredible piece of cinema. He has orchestrated one of the GREATEST ACTION FILMS I HAVE EVER SEEN in my life! This movie is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride from the first scene to the very last. Stunts are pulled off on this film that I was jaw-dropped to witness. How people did not perish while making this movie is beyond me. The choreography and precision that must have been instituted to capture Miller’s grand vision must have been incredible. I would wager that each day’s safety meeting was comprehensive to say the least.

I imagine that during the pre-production meetings of the film, Miller was telling his creative team that no costume is too absurd, no vehicle too excessively impractical and no touch of oddity is off the table. ANYTHING goes in this wild vision of the worst future you can imagine. No director has had more fun executing his vision and who could blame him. This is the kind of movie director’s dream of making and the kind every actor wants to be a part of. George Miller has assembled all the right people and ingredients to bring his dream to life. The cast is spectacular, the cinematography breathtaking and the production design, costumes and vehicles SO OVER THE TOP that you will be salivating over your shirt through the biggest smile you have ever experienced. I found myself in awe whilst watching this movie and marveled at the amount of work that went into making such an extravaganza of excessive adrenaline. I wouldn’t even know where to begin such a process.

Miller is a genius and a true maestro of tension; having planned out every shot of this masterpiece over many years in his head and pasted together a moving freight train that keeps you glued to the screen for two hours. At one point I was ready to chew on my belt to get me through the intensity on screen.
THIS IS WHAT MOVIES ARE ALL ABOUT. Forget the “cause” films, the romantic dramas, the historical epics and the Merchant Ivory period pieces. THIS is why we happily allow theaters to extort our money from within our pockets. All those other genres are well and good, but this action-packed bonanza is why we go to the movies. Mad Max: Fury Road is ENTERTAINMENT in its purest form, and I have never been happier to shell out some greens.  I walked out of the theater feeling more energized, more entertained and more pleased than I can ever recall. And that is saying A LOT. Hours have passed since I left the screening and I can’t stop thinking about this movie.
GO SEE MAD MAX NOW!

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Review:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

*** ½ stars (of 4)

By Christopher Pickhardt

With The Grand Budapest Hotel, as usual, Wes Anderson has made a quirky and enchanting film that immerses us in a world that is unmistakably his. With the usage of vibrant colors, clever camera movements, off-beat if not outlandish characters and elaborate set designs, Anderson leaves his unique signature all over his films that add a nuance and style which serve to further envelope the viewer in the story.

Wes Anderson is in a small club of film-makers whom have cultivated their storytelling style to such a recognizable degree that if one was to flip through the channels without knowing who a film’s director was, could almost immediately deduct the maestro just by the visuals, or the script and by the accompanying elements. Regardless of whether or not this particular film may be said director’s finest work, their fingerprints would be evident all over the place. Visionaries like Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, David Lynch, Steven Spielberg, Terry Gilliam, David Cronenberg, Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen, David Fincher and more recently Christopher Nolan and Alfonso Cuaron (I may have missed a few) have crafted works that are unlike their contemporaries, simply by employing techniques in such a carefully-crafted and deliberate manner that we recognize their brushstrokes with ease.

In other words, you know you’re watching a Wes Anderson movie and with The Grand Budapest Hotel, it is no different. At the core, this is a murder mystery/who done it story with layers of vast eccentricity and rich comedy – which is both subtle and slapstick, depending on the moment. The characters all have clear agendas and motivations, which when blended together create a crazy troupe of people all running either away from or after each other. Mad-cap would be one way to describe this film or “this is SO a Wes Anderson film” would be another. You know what you’re getting and it is usually highly inventive and ultra creative. Anderson just doesn’t tell the usual stories; he spins yarns that are unlike most films out there – stories that have a lot of heart and look at the world through an off-center point of view that is very playful and free of cynicism. In a way, Wes’ films have a very childlike innocence to them and I mean that as a high complement. It takes a very intelligent and clever artist to craft stories that can so vividly show us human behavior in both a cartoonish and deeply realistic fashion. Not an easy tightrope to walk, but Anderson finds a way. That is what makes him special.

The cast here is superb (as always), which is led by Ralph Fiennes as the Grand Hotel’s omnipresent concierge who takes Zero – an ambitious lobby boy (Tony Revolori) under his wing and on the adventure of his life (and for his life). The supporting cast includes Anderson regulars and newcomers such as: Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, F. Murray Abraham (in his nicest work in years), Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman and many more (mostly in cameos).

The eclectic casting, which has become the norm in Anderson’s films, is a wonderful and exciting element that further grasps our attention and draws us into the story. I am so happy that the trend of piling a huge assortment of name talent in a single film; which was ubiquitous in 40’s, 50’s and 60’s cinema, has made a comeback of late – probably picking up steam in the mid – late 90’s (with films such as Heat, The Thin Red Line, Short Cuts, Boogie Nights, Pulp Fiction and HBO’s And the Band Played On) and gaining real momentum with Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films in the early 2000’s.

Today large casts are in full stream – with actors lining up to work with pedigree directors, often in small parts because they believe in the film’s story or just want to be a part of a unique collaborative experience and sometimes, just want that paycheck. Regardless, it is to the film’s benefit and us the viewers get to reap all the benefits. Even when a film isn’t that great it is still fun to see tons of actors working together – sometimes much like a crazy recipe (Expendables for example). Who would have believed back in the 80’s that we’d actually get a film with Stallone and Schwarzenegger together?! It seemed like a dream that would never come true, but now we’re heading for our 4th collaboration of these two icons with this year’s Expendables 3.

I recommend The Grand Budapest Hotel for those seeking to see a nice, entertaining clever little movie that is original and fun which is not a sequel, a prequel or a TV/video game adaptation or based on a teenage book series. This is a film for real cinema lovers but one that is not pretentious or too avant-garde to follow. It’s almost a throwback to classic Hollywood – which given a lot of today’s films, is a welcomed surprise.

 

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

REVIEW:

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

***1/2 STARS (out of 4)

By Christopher Pickhardt

Ron Woodroof is a hero. Sure he’s also a drug-taking alcoholic with a penchant for unprotected sex with prostitutes who inevitably contracts HIV and AIDS, but if not for that laundry list of flaws, our protagonist would not have his mission and the other AIDS-addled citizens of Dallas in the late 1980’s would have never gotten the alternative treatments they needed to battle the most horrifying new disease of the 20th century.

Suffice to say, Woodroof (played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey) contracting AIDS was a bitter/sweet and tragic push the fighting-AIDS movement received during that very scary time in America’s history. During those early years when AIDS first began popping up amongst mostly Homosexuals, people were terrified and confused – their heads muddled with rumors, misinformation and even for some, biased hatred towards those they assumed were spreading this plague via reckless debauchery.

Additionally, there are even conspiracy theories out there that the US Government created AIDS in a lab in an attempt to eradicate the Homosexual population in the wake of the free love movements of the late 1960’s to 1970’s. Those claims are still open for debate, but given the intense unbridled fear which populated large portions of America in the early 80’s – especially amongst right-wingers in Washington, not to mention the added immeasurable profits fighting this disease could garner for the big pharmaceutical industry – taking all that into consideration, almost anything is possible.

This engaging film tells the story of Woodroof’s own battle with AIDS, the perils of early AIDS-pharmaceuticals like AZT (which in early stages was being tested at dosages that became lethal in many patients) and Woodroof’s eventual enterprising idea of trafficking (for lack of a better term) herbal and alternative AIDS supplements into America from Mexico, which were deemed illegal by the highly-corruptible FDA and distributed to patients free of charge via a membership “club” with monthly subscription dues of $400.00 where they could then retain the treatment they needed as a safer alternative to the hospital’s guinea pig AZT testing.

Woodroof gains some allies who assist him in his operation: Rayon (exceptionally played by the always great Jared Leto), a male transvestite who is also an AIDS patient becomes his partner in the operation and Dr. Eve Saks (the very sympathetic Jennifer Garner), is Ron’s hesitant doctor who eventually sees how flawed the hospital’s testing is and decides to back him up in his quest. Steve Zahn is Tucker, a local police officer who sympathizes with Woodroof’s plight and seems to always show up just when Ron needs him. Griffin Dunne shows up as Woodroof’s expatriate doctor in Mexico who supplies him with the alternative medications and lastly Dallas Roberts as Woodroof’s thankless lawyer David Wayne who has to deal with Ron’s adversaries – such as the FDA lackey Richard Barkley (Michael O’Neill), the hospital’s imposing Dr. Sevard (Dennis O’Hare) and eventually the subjugating IRS.

This film is an amazing story of courage, rebellion and drive – all in the face of certain death and legal punishment. Most people faced with the diagnosis of AIDS would quietly just go with the doctor’s orders and hope for the best. Ron Woodroof was not one of those people and his tale was one of consistent strides in the other direction – a middle-finger to the establishment and a smoking gun highlighting the overreaching flawed hands of the Food and Drug Administration whom lost its integrity long ago. The FDA sold its soul to the pharmaceutical companies and today especially to the agribusiness industry (especially the monstrous MONSANTO), where regulation really just means profit-protection for corporations.

Woodroof was a prime example of a leader, a man igniting a movement who did not fear his opponents or bow to the status quo. He was a fighter who got past his own prejudices and banded together with others afflicted with the same debilitating fatal disease as him. Dallas Buyers Club is an excellent companion film to And the Band Played On, Angels in America and Philadelphia, for it underscores not only the physical plights AIDS’ victims endure, but also the bureaucracy of the health care industry and especially the negative stigma those afflicted carried on their backs daily like a Scarlett Letter.

You will surely be hearing more and more about this film as the awards season heats up. Its stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto will most certainly be shoe-ins for consideration in the top acting and supporting categories, but long-shots for the trophies at some of the bigger awards due to the film’s subject matter. Regardless of awards though, this is a powerful film with wonderful performances – with McConaughey and Leto giving their career-best turns (not to mention amazing physical transformations into emaciation).

It is utterly remarkable how effective and educational a film like this is. What could have been just a column in an old magazine is now told on the big screen in a way that completely envelopes the viewer and takes us to a time and place we were not necessarily privy to – an important time during a turning point in our culture. Films are about entertainment most of all, yes, but they also need to educate and enlighten its viewers. That is the true power of art and no medium accomplishes this better than film – it is THE art form of the 20th century and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. The industry just needs to remember how powerful it really is and focus less on profits and more on integrity. More films should accomplish what Dallas Buyers Club has and more often.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narrow Margin

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DVD Review:

Narrow Margin

*** stars (of 4)

By Christopher Pickhardt

1990’s Narrow Margin stars Gene Hackman and Anne Archer. It is a tense, suspense thriller on a train with twists and turns and surprisingly funny lines along the way.

Archer is a woman who witnessed a murder and Hackman is the Los Angeles Assistant D.A. who is taking her from Canada to L.A. to testify against a mob boos who ordered the hit that she unfortunately saw firsthand. Most of the film takes place on a mountainside train along the Canadian wilderness.

As usual, Gene Hackman is great as a smart tough guy who just happens to be a lawyer. He always has a commanding presence on film and his voice is one of the most recognizable in film history. It is a shame he has retired from acting, but I hope he will at least do one more film before he passes. I am not holding my breath however, as Hackman has reportedly turned down a mountain of offers over the years since retiring from acting after making the 2004 film Welcome to Mooseport (what a sad final film for a great actor’s resume’).

Peter Hyams, who is Narrow Margin’s writer, director and cinematographer, has done a great job handling the intensity and intricacy of the action sequences while balancing the expository moments with some surprising humor. At times we are doubtful of the moments where Hackman overpowers men a lot younger than him, but his physical abilities are explained eventually and we can then, dispel our disbelief. But this genre is known for contrivances and we can happily just look the other way and allow the film to simply entertain us.

This is a good, not too famous film I have always known about but have not seen until now. It is definitely a worthy viewing, especially if you are a Gene Hackman fan as I am.

Clash of the Titans

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Review:

 Clash of the Titans                                                    

 **1/2 stars (out of 4)

By Christopher Pickhardt

Being a big fan of the original 1981 film, I was pretty interested in seeing this inevitable 2010 update of Clash of the Titans. The original was a LARGE part of my childhood, having watched in countless times throughout my early years. The practical visual effects pioneered by Ray Harryhausen that were instituted to bring the story to life back then were so memorable for me and I have a great sense of nostalgia for the excellent labor of love that was Clash of the Titans. I especially adore the Medussa sequence (more on that later) and the scenes featuring the evil Calibos. I can vividly recall those iconic images. It is hard to believe it has been 29 years since the original was released. Warner Brothers should have waited one more year to commemorate the film properly. Not waiting for the 30th anniversary is a head-scratcher for me.

This remake is basically all action and visual effects and little character development. The story-line is pretty much the same as the original film with a few modifications. I wish they had taken more time to focus on the characters instead of just thrusting us right into the action sequences. The actors are all good for the most part, making the most of what little the script has given them to work with.

Sam Worthington is the current new golden boy Hollywood is pushing on us (after Terminator Salvation and Avatar). He is a decent leading man, is fairly likable and capable, but I don’t love him. I am hoping he will get a juicy dramatic role which would allow him to really shine. In the action films he has starred in so far he is solid and believable, but there isn’t too much for him to do with the characters he has been given. Avatar to me is probably his most dynamic character to date, given American audiences have not seen his work back home in Australia.

The supporting actors all do their best, with Mads Mikkelsen (from Denmark, the villain from Casino Royale) standing out most for me as Draco, a strong warrior from Argos who accompanies Perseus (Sam Worthington) on his journey to the witches, to face the snaky-Medusa and finally to fight the mighty Kraken (the film’s climactic battle subject). The Medusa sequence is the most memorable one of the original and is the best scene in this film as well – proving that Medussa’s lair is simply a classically-interesting scene featuring one of the most memorable film and mythological characters.

Two powerhouse actors – Liam Neeson (as Zeus) and Ralph Fiennes (as Hades) are the two biggest names in the film and portray two of the most well-known characters in Greek mythology. Given that pedigree, it saddens me to say that I felt these two exceptional actors were restrained and frankly, wasted in their roles here. I did not think the characters they were given had enough “meat” for them to chew on as actors. They are both actors that are capable of great performances and here it felt like they were just coasting. Not that their work in the remake were bad, but I was just left feeling underwhelmed. However, it was cool to see their Schindler’s List reunion though.

I would recommend checking out a matinee of Titans or wait for it to come out on DVD/BLURAY. It is not worth paying full price and especially do not waste your time seeing it in the sub-par 3-D format. I saw it in 2-D and it was just fine. I am not wasting my money on films NOT FILMED in 3-D (Clash and many others are often up-converted to 3-D after filming has been completed in a cost-pinching move by revenue-hungry studios). This movie was rushed into 3-D in post-production to capitalize on the post-Avatar 3-D love, which to me is unnecessary and serves as a fleecing of the moviegoer’s pocketbook. If you are up for action, pretty decent music and an entertaining onslaught of visual effects, then go see Cash of the Titans. But do not expect it to have the allure and charm of the original.