Friday, October 22, 2010

Alternative Movie Options, Why Aren't There More?

One of my favorite things as a kid was when my grandmother would take my sister and me or me and one of my friends to see a movie at the old Movie 6 in my hometown. The theater had been around for good 30 years and was even where my parents went on their first date to see the disaster movie Earthquake (hey, it won an Oscar!), but after the new mall opened with a 12 screen multiplex Movie 6 became second fiddle in town.

The best thing I remember about Movie 6 is that they always played movies after they had left the big move theater and the tickets were $2. Seriously. $2. And that was in the late 90s when typical movies were still at a relatively reasonable $6.50 for adults. Movie 6 is definitely where I would've taken my dates if it wasn't shut down by the time I was in high school and driving. And therein lies the problem. It was shut down.

Movies are becoming more and more expensive to make. This means studios have to make more money on each film to try and at least break even if not make a profit, and that in turn is passed along to the movie theaters who have to raise prices so they can stay afloat. It's difficult for the little theaters to get by on $2 or $4 tickets and no one wants to pay $11 to sit in a rundown theater that has gum on the seats from the 70s. So does this leave us at the mercy of the megaplexes with their ever increasing ticket and concessions prices?

Yes. And No.

While many smaller towns lack the public interest or persons with resources (sorry Salisbury, MD and Hastings, NE) to open and run smaller "niche" theaters, there is hope in places like Richmond, VA and Washington, DC.

Richmond sports the amazing Byrd Theatre, which has been maintained in its original styling from its 1928 opening. Plush seats, deatiled interior architecture, a functioning organ, and an actual curtain that is pulled back before the start of each movie makes the theatre seem more like an opera house than a place to watch 300. The Byrd plays second-run movies (Inception is currently on their docket) as well as special features (like documentaries that don't make it to "big" theaters) and throwback nights with movies like Back to the Future, The Phantom of the Opera (1925), and The Princess Bride. General features only cost $1.99. Awesome.

DC sports the Arlington Cinema and Draft House with its second-run movies (these are the ones that just left the main theaters but aren't quite out on DVD or on-demand) for $1 on Mondays with prices increasing by a buck each night until the weekend. Instead of the usual theater seating, ACDH (I just made up that acronym but feel free to use it) has table and bar (facing the screen of course) seating. They also serve you food and beer from a full menu before and during the movie.

I also recently discovered that West End Cinema is opening next Friday (10/29) in, well, the West End of DC (between Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle metro stations). While this is not a second-run theater like the Byrd or ACDH, West End Cinema will play films that don't make it to a theater near you (see what I did there?). It's a more "refined" and "intellectually-minded" theater that will serve "beer wine and gourmet nibbles as well as the usual popcorn, candy and soda" and is "fashioned more along the lines of the cinematheques of Europe." Although it boasts the ability to hold teleconferences and show non-film performance like an "opera simulcast," I'm more excited to see the likes of Howl, which as far as I know never made it to a mainstream theater.

While several larger cities like New York City may be the best places for the small theater and the opening of West End Cinema and their reasonable success (they're still open, so count your blessings) of the Byrd and ACDH is promising, there are still far too few independent and price/experience minded cinemas out there. But as the expense of blockbuster studio movies continue to grow, so does the popularity of independent films. If we are lucky, then the smart curious populations of every town in America will show entrepreneurs that the market does exist for more of these types of cinemas in a town near you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dear Sister

Dear Sister,

Please don't send anymore e-mails to the family saying that you are going to be an aunt in the subject line without clarifying that your husband's sister just found out she's pregnant. I was worried that you knew something that I didn't.

Thank you,
Your Brother

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010 MLB Playoffs-National League

It's hard to believe how fast the season has flown by. The hometown Nationals are once again way below .500 and were at times hard to watch, and the end of September means another long winter of speculation and remorse and a spring filled with hope that will go once again unfulfilled. But for lucky fans of 8 teams October means one thing, Playoffs. So let's go ahead and take a look at this year's National League playoff teams.

Atlanta Braves
Who are they?
The Once and (possibly) Future Champions. The Braves dominated the National League through most of the 90s and a part of the last decade, but the Bravos have slumped a bit as of late. Maybe you can blame this on the rise of the Phillies to the position of Beast of the (NL) East, but either way the Braves are looking to restake their claim as the cream of the National League.

Player to watch.
Man do I wish I could say Chipper Jones here, but the third baseman has been out for much of the second half of the season and wont' make an appearance in the playoffs. So, we're going to go with rookie phenom Jason Heyward. The next obvious choice? Maybe, but Heyward has had a very good season as a rookie (.277/18/72) and it'll be interesting to see how this stud can perform in the playoffs.

Why you should want them to win?
This is legendary Atlanta manager Bobby Cox's last season. There may be no better way to send the man out then on top as World Series Champions.

Why they might win.
Like most of the playoff teams this year, Atlanta has solid pitching. But they also have an ace up their sleeve with rookie reliever Kenny Powers who may be the Jesus figure we all perceive him to be.

Why they'll lose.
Injuries have forced the Bravos to float around some of their infielders to fill in the gaps. The lack of continuity was clear in their last regular season series against the Phillies when fielding errors were an issue.

Random fact.
This guy used to be the Braves mascot.

Cincinnati Reds
Who are they?
The Big Surprise. No one really expected the Reds to win the NL Central that the St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols have dominated for the last decade, but here we are with the Reds ready to make their first playoff appearance since 1995.

Player to watch.
Joey Votto. This NL MVP candidate is a guy that I can tell you almost nothing about without having to do some intense research, so yeah. I'm sure if you watch any of these games the commentators won't shut up about him, so you should do that. Go Joey Votto!

Why you should want them to win.
Not only have the Reds been irrelevant over the last few years, but they come from one of the hardest divisions in baseball to win. The NL Central sports 6 teams in its divisions while all other teams have 5 (except for the AL West, which only has four); it's true. Seems unfair right? Well, the NL Central does have the Pirates and they barely counts as a team. So maybe it is even. Either way, the Reds need to take advantage of their postseason ticket before St. Louis remembers next year that they're the class of the division.

Why they might win.
They have a pitcher whose first name is Bronson! What a bro.

Why they'll lose.
They play in Cincinnati. Yuck.

Random fact.

I just found out that Joey Votto is Canadian. That's disappointing.

Philadelphia Phillies
Who are they?
The Dynasty in the Making. Four straight NL East titles, two-time defending NL Pennant winners, and 2008 World Series Champions. What's that tell you? That these guys are damn good and probably won't stop. Prepare for all the "dynasty" talk as the Phils make their way through the playoffs. Also prepare for the drunken shenanigans of their fans.

Player to watch.
Roy Halladay. One of the most dominating pitchers in the Majors since 2002, Halladay is getting his first taste of postseason play. Forced to pitch for the Blue Jays (perhaps as punishment for a misdeed in a past life) in the brutal AL East for over a decade, "Doc" finally made his way to a winning team with a chance to win it all. He already boasts a Cy Young Award from his time in Toronto (and may win a second this year), but without a World Series ring he becomes the Dan Marino of baseball - getting captured by a cross-dressing former catcher and, along with the Phanatic, needing to be rescued by Jim Carrey in a Hawaiian shirt. Hilarity ensues. [Editor's note: Halladay pitched only the second no-hitter in playoff history Wednesday night against the Reds. Wow am I smart.]

Why you should want them to win.
Because if they lose this will happen, but if they win this will happen.

Why they might win.
This guy. This guy. And maybe even this guy.

Why they'll lose.
My roommate is a huge Phillies fan.

Random fact.

June 23, 1971, Phillies right-hander Rick Wise pitches a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds, Hitting two home runs and becoming the fourth Phillie to pitch a no-hitter - and the only one to do it wearing glasses. Ha, made you learn something.

San Francisco Giants
Who are they?
The Pitching Team. Two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum has not been as dominating as he was the past two seasons, but he's still one of the best. Matt Cain has shown that he has the ability to get it done (going 3-0 with 29 strikeouts and a 2.19 ERA in September), and Jonathan Sanchez has come into his own as the second best arm in this team's rotation. This team doesn't need a lot of run production to get the job done.

Player to watch.
The offense. I have faith in the pitching staff's ability to do their thing, but if no one in the lineup can get on base on hit successfully in a scoring situation, this team may find itself on the wrong side of a few 1-0 or 2-1 pitching duels. The bats need to come alive for the Giants if they have any hope of going deep in the playoffs, let alone winning themselves a ring.

Why you should want them to win.
The Giants haven't won a playoff game since Barry Bonds was with the team. A World Series title (something the team hasn't accomplished since leaving New York in the 50s) in the pitching-strong, post-Bonds era would be a great way for the franchise and the city to erase the memories of a roided-up egomaniac that's currently under indictment from the U.S. government and move on to a bright future.

Why they might win.
Pitching, pitching, pitching. The starting rotation for the Giants is absolutely stacked and their reliever is a Beach Boy. That's good enough for me.

Why they'll lose.
As much as I've complimented their pitching staff, the Phillies have a better rotation.

Random fact.

Their third baseman is a Panda.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2010 MLB Playoffs- American League

It's hard to believe how fast the season has flown by. My beloved O's are once again way below .500 and were at times hard to watch, and the end of September means another long winter of speculation and remorse and a spring filled with hope that will go once again unfulfilled. But for lucky fans of 8 teams October means one thing, Playoffs. So let's go ahead and take a look at this year's American League playoff teams.

Minnesota Twins
Who are they?
The All-American Midwest Team. Led by homegrown super star Joe Mauer, the Twins are the kind of team that epitomizes what a lot of people believe baseball should stand for. Selfless players who play for the team and their city (or region/state in this case) and try to win one for the fans.

Player to watch.
Jim Thome. Mauer is the obvious star of this team, but everyone will be watching him anyway. Keep your eye on Thome who quietly batted .283 with 25 HR's on the season as a part-time DH. The 20 year veteran is eighth on the all time HR list, Thome is just 11 dingers from 600 and is first all time in walk off HR's. This may

Why you should want them to win?
Because if you don't then you hate America and everything it stands for. This is not an opinion; it's a fact. Also, this may be the aforementioned Thome's (one of the classiest players of the last two decades) to win a ring.

Why they might win.
A strong offense that can mash the ball all over the field and a starting rotation that is better than a lot of people think.

Why they'll lose.
The loss of former MVP Justin Morneau due to injury hurts their offense and their bullpen is a liability outside of Jon Rauch and Matt Capps.

Random fact.
The Twins' intertwined "TC" logo stands for the Twin Cities (hence, the Twins), which are Minneapolis and Duluth. I learned this by watching Fargo. The Twin Cities part, not the hat part. That I figured out on my own.

New York Yankees
Who are they?
The Evil Empire, but if you seriously needed to be told that then just stop reading this column and move along. Move along.

Player to watch.
AJ Burnett. Sitting awkwardly on the bench. Because Yankees Manger Joe Girardi doesn't trust him to pitch. That's $16.5 Million that can't be trusted to pitch in the playoffs. Gotta love New York.

Why you should want them to win?
Winning the WS after the death of owner George Steinbrenner, who brought the Yankees back to a dominating franchise after purchasing them in the 70s, earlier this year would be a fitting tribute to "The Boss". (But seriously, don't root for the Yankees. Don't be that guy. No one like that guy.)

Why they might win.
Hellloooooo highest payroll in baseball.

Why they'll lose.
Because if there is a God then he doesn't want me to suffer through obnoxious Yankees fans or seeing Jeter/A-Rod hoisting the trophy on the ESPN "Champions" clip every day for the next year.

Random fact.
Jay-Z made the Yankees hat more famous than a Yankee could.

Tampa Bay Rays
Who are they?
The Young Guns. A team that was irrelevant for its first 10 years (without one playoff appearance or even a winning season), the Rays came out of seemingly nowhere to win the very strong AL East in 2008 and made it all the way to the World Series. Stacked with young talent (from all the high draft picks from years and years and years of losing), the Rays may be one of the top future franchises in the league.

Player to watch.
David Price. He was a rookie making his first MLB appearance in the 2008 playoffs, but now he's a stud pitcher who has been mentioned in the AL Cy Young Award conversation. He pitched well all year and has some experience in the World Series as a relief pitcher against the Phillies in '08, so it'll be interesting if he can put everything together and be a rock for this rotation.

Why you should want them to win?
Worst to first? I'm in! Ok, so it would've been better if it had happened two years ago when the magical transformation began, but it's hard to root against a team that's turned around a really miserable franchise.

Why they might win.
Young. Talented. Well managed. Enough said.

Why they'll lose.
Despite being one of the best teams in baseball this season, their stadium is constantly empty. Karma may come around to bite the fairweather fans in the butt.

Random fact.
The turnaround of the franchise began the same year the team's name was changed from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the Tampa Bay Rays. Maybe other languishing franchises should try that out. I'm looking at you Pittsburgh.

Texas Rangers
Who are they?
Just one guy named Walker who plays every position on the field. Also, owned by the most ornery old man you've ever met.

Player to watch.
Why you should want them to win?
Why they might win.
Why they'll lose.
Random fact.
Despite the lack of serious content above, the Rangers are the team I'm most rooting for in this year's playoffs. This is a franchise that has had lots of ups and downs over the years, has only one postseason win, was recently sold to a Baseball/Pitching/Texas legend, and is led by an AL MVP candidate that only 5 years ago was out of baseball because of drug addiction. Everyone should be praying that Josh Hamilton can return and make a push to get his team to the World Series. There's a lot of likeable talent with none of the infighting or universal disgust that follows so many professional sports teams. Plus I can't wait to see how many newspapers/websites have the headline "Don't Mess with Texas" after they win it all.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roommates: Sharing Food

One of the best parts of having roommates is the amount of random food you can find in the pantry and refrigerator. Someone always has something delicious that you can sneak a bite from, or leftovers that you can convince them they ate when they came home wasted from that work happy hour. That being said, there are some foods that can be questionable and you should consider carefully before consuming.

  • Milk - Sometimes your roommate might be lactose intolerant and put poorly marked soy milk in the fridge. Gross. How inconsiderate.
  • Chinese Food - Leftover Chinese food rarely looks appetizing, but it's even scarier when you don't know what it was supposed to be originally. Is that sweet and sour chicken with broccoli, or is orange chicken and poisonous fungi? Fortune cookie says, "Fortune does not favor the bold."
  • That Thing in the Tupperware - The homemade cousin of Chinese food, that thing in the Tupperware is a real hit or miss gamble. Maybe it's the awesome chili your roommate's mom makes. Maybe your roommate who can't cook made the turnip, jalapeño, spaghetti sauce, and undercooked chicken dish again. This is why I wanted everyone to label their food.
  • Beer - There used to be a time that your only concern was a roommate who had a serious taste for Milwaukee's Best. Now every time I pull out a bottle of beer I'm afraid that it's been tampered with and filled with Smirnoff Ice. Don't ice me, bro. Not like that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Go See This Movie

I have yet to see Inception, but it must be really, really good.

[Editor's note: the original Craigslist page was removed and the link is no longer active, which sucks]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What's in a name?

I've come to the realization that I'm an inconsistent blogger, and as a result, the name I chose for this blog seems inappropriate. But like all things inappropriate, I love it. With the summer semester ending last week, I'll do by best to be more diligent about posting...not that anyone is reading this. Hi mom.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What a day

I'm sure everyone in America by now has heard about the dramatic victory of the US soccer team over Algeria to not only advance to the round of 16 of the World Cup, but also to win its group for the first time since 1930, the first World Cup ever. I'm sure fewer have heard about the epic battle going on between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon.

The 91' minute score by Landon Donovan to put the US up 1-nil in the last game of qualifying at the World Cup is more exciting, but Isner's match is more historic.

Not only have the pair played the longest Wimbledon, Grand Slam, and overall tournament match in Open history with 118 games and 6 1/2 hours played in the 5th set alone, but they're not finished yet. At about 4:13pm ET (9:13 pm in London), the game was called due to darkness and will have to be finished tomorrow. Oh, and both men have over 90 aces in the match, shattering the old record of 78 set by Ivan Karolvic.

I was going to rant a little about about some of the terrible officiating in the US/Algeria game (another bad disallowed goal and several other bad calls), but I've spent too much time reveling in the victory and being amazed by the determination of the two tennis players mentioned above. I once played a 2 1/2 hour 8-game pro set in high school and thought I was going to die. Those two men are champions no matter what.

But still, go John Isner. And go USA.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ice Cube

Sometimes pictures say more than words.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Competing for a Piece of History

I mentioned the impending decommission of the NASA Space Shuttle fleet in an earlier post, but never really thought about what would happen with the Atlantis, Discovery, and the Endeavour. Apparently NASA is holding a competition to see what site will house two of the retired shuttles (the Discovery was already promised to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in DC, a logical final resting place).

Where should the two remaining shuttles go? The most historically logical (Kennedy Space Center)? The site with the probably the highest chance of heavy traffic (the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York Harbor)? The one with the best campaign?

My vote goes with the Kennedy Space Center and the Intrepid. Johnson Space Center in Houston is a close third. Why send such an important part of our nation's aerospace history to a location in Tulsa, OK or Dayton, OH that won't get the exposure of these other sites?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Are You Fed Up With Today's Films?

We've come a long way from the days when one film a month would be released to the public. Today there could be anywhere from two to 20 films released on a single weekend, but this overflow of film has led to a general dilution of the quality out there (Did the Chipmunk movie really need a "Squeakquel"?). And with the advent of home entertainment in VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray, it's harder to get away from the truly terrible movies that flood the big screen. Even if studios and producers feel that a movie won't make the big bucks in theaters, they may bank on DVD/Blu-ray sales to roll in and throw it out there anyway.

Film producer Lynda Obst wrote an interesting op-ed for the Atlantic last week that was humorous but still, sadly, all too true. Obst opines that the poor quality of scripts selected for production is to blame for why you hate the movies you watch. She even runs down a list of reasons why a script sells (it has Shia LaBeouf, Taylor Lautner, Zac Efron, or a hot boy under 24 attached) and why it doesn't (it is intelligent or otherwise hindered by nuance). Film buffs may be entertained and casual movie-goers may be enlightened, but that still doesn't change the problem of Hollywood's unreliable trigger finger.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Downfall of Fair Use on YouTube

The amount of videos on YouTube can sometimes be mind-boggling, and the popularity of certain ones even more so. It can be pretty amazing how quickly a video can go viral and get 1,000,000 views these days. For every Chocolate Rain or All the Single Babies there are often dozens of parodies trying to pickup on the success of the latest "big hit". While the term "parody" should probably be used with caution (knockoffs or fan videos may be more appropriate), it's hard to ignore that YouTube gives the average computer savvy user a chance to view a popular video, record their own version/parody/knockoff, and post it for the masses to see.

The quality of these parodies is often suspect and more often than not just frustrating to wade through in order find the original favorite. For what it's worth, I think my favorite franchise of videos on YouTube has to be the Downfall parodies. Downfall being the German film (Der Untergang) about Hitler's last day's in a bunker, waiting for the end of the Third Reich. The film itself is excellent, and Bruno Ganz's portrayal of Adolf Hitler is scary good. Tim Cavanaugh's April 21 article, "First They Came for Hitler...", in Reason magazine describes the parody videos better than I can:

"If you're unfamiliar with these parodies...Der Untergang...features a scene in which a bunker-trapped Hitler harangues his inner circle (in German) as the Russians close in on Berlin. A few years ago, some inspired genius put on new subtitles in which the Führer ranted about getting banned from Xbox Live rather than about the 11th-hour desertion of his generals. Because Hitler has been bringing the laughs at least since the Beer Hall Putsch, the result was pretty funny, and it spawned a vast genre...There's even one where the dictator is mad about all the people making Downfall parodies..."

As it turns out, not everyone finds these videos hilarious. Constantin Films, the German production company that owns the rights to Downfall (from which the rant clip originates), has filed copyright claims, resulting in many of these parodies being taken down from YouTube. While artists and filmmakers have a right to protect their copyright, these less than 4-minute clips are certainly not infringement. Although these works are clearly transformative, parodies, and under the protection of Fair Use, YouTube continues to remove them.

YouTube is often forced to act in order to protect itself by muting videos that feature copyrighted music or removing videos that are clearly pulled from copyrighted material and posted online for free viewership, and I understand YouTube's fears over being brought into court over copyright infringement, but the Google-owned site often acts too hastily before reviewing some of these copyright claims to see if they are valid. Yes, it's party of the site's policy and posters agree to its terms and conditions before they can post, but maybe it's time YouTube re-examines some of these policy before another, more savvy competitor pushes it by the wayside.

In the meantime, here are two of my favorite Downfall parodies:

  • Hitler's response to last fall's Virginia Tech/Nebraska football game. (I grew up a Virginia Tech fan and my brother-in-law is a Cornhusker, so its close to home, but football fans in general may be able to enjoy it.)
  • Hitler pissed at Kanye West for ruining Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the VMA's. (self-explanatory)

Enjoy them while you can.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fronting the Final Frontier

There's been plenty of chatter recently about President Obama's space plan and the effect it will have on NASA, a manned-Moon or even Mars mission, and the immediate future of US space travel in general. I'm lucky enough to have an aerospace engineer for a friend who is much more knowledgeable and has a much better grasp of the pulse of the industry right now. With next week's expected launch of the privately owned SpaceX's new rocket, I thought it might be nice to air out some of his thoughts on the new space plan.

On the retirement of the space shuttle and its effect on related jobs:
The people who complain about losing their jobs because the shuttle program is ending dont really have much to complain about since they've known for 5+ years that this was going to happen in 2010. More than most other people who lose jobs, and there's really no way around it -- the shuttle has to be retired, and their jobs go with it.

Giving "local" space missions to privately owned companies:
I really like the idea of giving up the low earth orbit missions to private companies. People complain a lot about America losing the edge to other countries, but isn't capitalism and entrepreneurship our strong suit? Those companies (Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and like 10 others) are ready to go solve the problem of efficiently getting to the ISS [International Space Station] cheaper than their competitors. Its just too bad we didn't task them with this 5 years ago, so we don't have the gap in between the shuttle and their solution.

And on NASA's possible role in the future:
[NASA is] still needed, just not for the low-earth orbit stuff. It is immensely more expensive to go to the Moon, much less Mars, and those [private] companies don't have the ability to do something like that. NASA's job should be to lead the way into the frontier, show that it can be done, and come up with crazy awesome inventions like Tang and Velcro along the way.
[Note: he actually said the part about Tang and Velcro]

So what's the future of American space travel? It looks as though it's hard to come up with concrete projections right now, but next week's launch is just the first step, and its success or failure will probably give us no better idea than we already have right now.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Even Awesomeness has a Hierarchy

We all know that certain things are inherently awesome (tater tots, open bars, Duck Hunt), but now there's a website to pit awesome things against each other in a battle royale until only one remains standing. It's entertaining to see the competitors, and the fact that you help decide the outcome means you're even less likely to meet that important deadline you've been meaning to get to.

Hello procrastination.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thoughts on Opening Day(s)

Now that each team has had it's first game of the season, here are some thoughts on Opening Day (and night) action:
  • First run of the season a home run off of Pesky's Pole? Awesome.
  • Albert Pujols is a machine.
  • New season, same Nats.
  • New season, better Phillies.
  • Obama, your first pitch was embarrassing. You knew all year that you'd be doing this, so why not practice a little instead of wasting time doing things like having Clark Kellog let you win at a game of "POTUS". Throwing a decent pitch is obviously your first priority as commander-in-chief.
  • I wonder if there is a better feeling than hitting a home run in your first major league at-bat. Jason Heyward looks like the real deal.
  • Tim Lincecum is Mitch Kramer from Dazed and Confused. (Apparently this observation is not as witty and original as I first thought.)
  • Congrats to the Pirates for having a winning record!
  • Zach Greinke goes six innings with one earned run and four strikeouts, and doesn't get the win. New season, same Royals.
  • The Orioles continue to frustrate me. I miss George Sherrill and his goofy flat-brimmed hat.

Friday, April 2, 2010


I had the opportunity to see a screening of the new Clash of the Titans Tuesday night and was legitimately excited to see the remake of the original 1981 film that I loved as a kid. Some movies are begging to be remade (I'm looking at you Less Than Zero) and I really thought that Clash of the Titans was among them. A classic story, tons of action, and a chance to update Ray Harryhausen's (amazaing for its time) stop-action special effects; how could Louis Letterier and company miss? And have you heard it's in 3D?

Maybe my hopes were too high, but I felt like the "rethinking" of Clash of the Titans was, as they say, not great.

A note for moviegoers pumped to Avatar-like 3D action: you will be disappointed. It became pretty clear early on that the movie was not filmed with 3D in mind, and instead it was added later to capitalize on the success of Avatar and the other recent 3D releases. For most of the movie it was hard to tell that there was a reason for wearing the glass, and a moments the "3D" made the fast-paced action sequences harder to follow. New 3D technology can really add something to the movie (and it's certainly not going to go away anytime soon), but only if done correctly.

And therein lies the problem with Clash; it just wasn't done right.

Remakes require a degree of artistic license and the chance to reintroduce the story in an original way, but I felt the minds behind the current incarnation of this classic story deviated too far from the original.

The story of Perseus (played now by Avatar's Sam Worthington) is a classic hero's tale with a quest, trials to overcome, meddling Gods to deal with, and even a Princess love interest to save. The original film does a nice job of blending the Greek myth with a few Hollywood twists to keep the audience interested for the full 118 minutes, but the core of the story remained the same.

The new Clash re-envisions Perseus as a crusader against the Gods, a man filled with hatred after his family was destroyed by a wrathful Hades, god of the Underworld. The story is no longer about Perseus' quest to save the princess (who in the new version isn't even a love interest), but instead about proving that men can stand up to the Gods and win. Underlying this is a whole convoluted plot line where Gods on Mount Olympus need the prayers of man to remain immortal but Hades doesn't, so by turning men against the Gods he gets to rule Olympus.


Maybe the plot for Clash of the Titans worked for everyone else in the theater, but as a guy who spent a good portion of his college education reading the classics, I just couldn't get why such drastic changes were made. The story of Perseus has worked for thousands of years with the core of the tale intact. The original movie was pretty well received and did well in the box office. So why change what wasn't broken?

But even if I could live with the writers, director, and producers ignoring the heart of the original story, the cheesy dialogue, bad acting, and campy antics for comic effect were frustrating enough to make this movie bad. All that combined with the poor execution of 3D leaves me rating this one with two and a half out of five stars. This is the kind of movie you watch on cable on a rainy Saturday in February because the action is decent and there's no more football on.

But the point of this post is not that I was disappointed overall by the movie (which, if I wasn't clear enough, I really was), but that I'm frustrated with Hollywood's insistence in remaking perfectly good movies; and doing it badly. Yes, I agree that Clash of the Titans was in line for a makeover/upgrade, but somebody messed up. It came out looking like a character from the Real Housewives series that had a botched boob job and too much botox to the face.

It's not impossible for a remake to be better than or as good as the original; The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock redoing Hitchcock), Ocean's 11 (2001), and The Fly (1986) remakes were all movies that are considered by many to be better made than the originals. But for every one of those films there is a Psycho (1998) that makes people shudder and ask, "Why?"

My problem with the remake is when it does not improve upon the original. Isn't that the point? When filmmakers take a tried-and-true story and "update" it just to bring in ticket sales the filmmaking suffers.

Death at a Funeral is a hilarious 2007 British comedy, but many people will see it for the first time this spring as an American remake with an overacting Martin Lawrence and a Chris Rock that was last relevant years ago. This movie is going to be terrible. I'm saying it right now. Go see the original first before the American version ruins all the good jokes for you. Am I judging too early? Possibly, but until American filmmakers show that they can consistently remake movies the right way (making bad movies good and good movies better), I will continue to spend more time on Netflix than in the movie theater.