The Titan (Dir. Lennart Ruff)- Review by Case Wright

Titan guy

Movies should first entertain, BUT in a pandemic, they really just need to be on the TV and better than Hallmark Channel Christmas movie background noise.  Lennart Ruff, the director, has an IMDB page similar to the film itself:  there’s moments of talent, but they’re muffled by a plot and directing style that morphs more than the lead character and he loses his fingers and genitals.

The Titan is part of an ever growing eco-disaster film sub-genre that basically want us to recycle or die. If it means these movies will stop, I will sort my plastic (no…no, I won’t).  The Earth is in collapse, but that doesn’t totally make sense either because the film says that the Earth is overpopulated, causing this eco-disaster.  However, it posits that 50%+ of the Earth population will perish….Ok….so wouldn’t we just be Populated then and return to normal over a period of centuries?  This is where I don’t get environmentalism; it has this underlying “I Told You So! Now, it’s all over and there’s nothing you can do about it! HA!” feel to it.

Professor Martin Collingwood (Tom Wilkinson) has a plan to get us off earth and survive by moving to Brooklyn… no wait… Titan the moon that’s around Saturn. But how will Professor Collingwood accomplish this task? He will do it with forced evolution and yelling a lot.  The key to his plan is Lieutenant Rick Janssen. A number of critics and dry white toast claim that Sam Worthington is a bland actor.  I don’t really see that as much as I think he’s trying to be very Gary Cooper and maybe he succeeds. Professor Collingwood arranges to have all these military heroes and Rick go through forced evolution so that they can survive the horrible conditions on Titan, lose their genitals.

As the forced evolution goes forward, Rick changes into an alien. Well? So? That’s what he was supposed to become and …. he did.  I did not understand the outrage with that.  He does end up looking like a space alien mated with a Pandora escapee, but this is about saving the species- sort of.

The last act act was as entertaining as it was disconnected from the preceding plot-line. There was killing, speeches, more killing, a quasi-love scene, anime-tentacle stuff goin on, and he kinda flies at end. It was weird.  It did have some syfy elements, but overall – it was really really dumb.

The biggest issue that I have with the film is that it goes from being directed like a documentary, which was fun to watch like an Apollo 11 behind the scenes feel.  Unfortunately, it went from that to a marriage struggle film, to an Erin Brokovich feel, to a monster movie, and then there was the whole flying around thing, tentacles doing things. It was was more all over the place than a drunken Jackson Pollack.

If it had just picked one genre instead of 30, it would’ve been a pretty great film.  Who are we kidding? You can’t leave your house and those 4800 rolls of toilet paper aren’t making you any healthier.  Really, it’s either this movie or Tiger King. I knew about people in Arkansas getting tigers for years and never sought to know more.  I might watch it eventually, but it rubs me the wrong way for now at least.  See how annoying it is when a person goes off on a tangent?  Imagine that for about two hours, but The Titan is louder than background noise and has no genitals.

Across the Tracks (1990, directed by Sandy Tung)

Joe Maloney (Brad Pitt) is a senior at a high school in Los Angeles.  He lives with his mother (Carrie Snodgress) in a trailer park, located in a high-crime neighborhood.  Joe has managed to resist giving into all of the temptations around him.  He’s a good students with a clean record and a bright future.  He’s a track star and all he had to do is when the big race at the end of the year and he’ll get a scholarship to Sanford.

Joe’s slightly younger brother, Billy (Rick Schroder) is a different story.  Billy is always getting into trouble and, because he got caught driving a stolen car, he’s spent the last few months in reform school.  Once Billy is released, he returns to the trailer park.  His mother welcomes him with open arms but Joe wants nothing to do with his good-for-nothing brother.  Because Billy has caused too much trouble at his old high school, he’s transferred to a school in a rich district.

Things get even worse when Billy joins Joe for one of his morning runs and he discovers that he’s also a good runner.  Joe suggests that Billy try out for his new school’s track team.  Billy does so and soon, he and Joe are in direct competition.  With the the scholarship to Stanford on the line, who will win the big race?

With the exception of some language that was probably only tossed in to get an R-rating, Across The Tracks feels like an old after school special.  The brothers may not always get along but they learn a lesson.  It’s not really a bad movie but it is a very predictable one and, if you’re watching this to see an early performance from future Oscar-winner Brat Pitt, keep in mind that his role is largely a supporting one.  Rick Schroder is the star of this one and he gives a performance that, like the rest of the film, isn’t really bad but isn’t exactly memorable either.  Across The Tracks was designed to make audiences look at Rick Schroder and say, “He really can act!” but Schroder is miscast as both a juvenile delinquent and a track star.  Ironically, Brad Pitt is more believable as a high school student even though he was 26 when this film was made while Schroder was only 20.

Personally, if I had an older brother and his entire future depended on him beating me in a race, I’d probably let him win.

The International Lens: Throne of Blood (dir by Akira Kurosawa)

In feudal-era Japan, two great Samurai commanders, Miki (Akira Kubo) and Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) stumble upon a mysterious spirit (Chieko Naniwa) who tells them both their futures.  Though her prophecies are cryptic, it appears that she is predicting that, some day, Washizu will become the “Lord of the Spider Web’s Castle” and that he will eventually be succeeded by Miki’s son.  When Washizu later returns to his wife, Asaji (Isuzu Yamada), he tells her about the prophecy.  The ambitious Asaji encourages to make the prophecy come true by murdering the local lord, Lord Tsuzaki (Hiroshi Tachikawa)….

Does this sound familiar?  The 1957 Japanese film, Throne of Blood, is a version of Macbeth, with the action moved from Scotland to Japan and the three witches replaced by one spirit.  It’s an enthralling film, though it probably does help to already be familiar with the plot of Macbeth before watching the film.  Director Akira Kurosawa keeps the action moving at a quick pace and he doesn’t always stop to carefully explain everyone’s motivations.  That’s not a complaint, by the way.  Kurosawa emphasizes the confusion of living in a world of constant war and constant scheming.  As envisioned by both Shakespeare and Kurosawa, the worlds of Macbeth and Thrones of Blood are worlds where violence is a part of life and the only thing certain is that everyone is going to die eventually.  To try to deny fate is to be destroyed by it.

The world of Throne of Blood seems to be covered in a constant fog.  Perhaps it’s the fog of war or maybe it’s the fog of an uncertain future but, for me, the defining image of Throne of Blood is one of armored and bloody men emerging from a thick mist.  The viewer is never sure who might be hiding in the mist and, even more importantly for both those watching the movie and those existing inside of it, it’s impossible to see what might be waiting down the road.  The only person who can see through the mist is the Spirit but, just as in Shakespeare’s play, people tend to only hear what they want to hear when the Spirit speaks.  In the world of Throne of Blood, even those who have eyes have been rendered blind.

It’s a world where you can change the present but you can never escape the past.  Asaji finds herself vainly trying to wash the blood off of her hands.  Washizu finds himself haunted by the ghost of the man that he killed.  Even while Washizu shouts at a ghost that only he can see, it’s obvious that those around him are already plotting the best way to get him out of the way.  There is no real loyalty in Throne of Blood and it all leads to death and more death.  It’s hard to say that anyone really achieves any sort of victory in Throne of Blood.  That’s just not the way the world works.

Throne of Blood is basically a filmed nightmare, one that takes place in a world that’s drenched with blood and duplicity.  Toshiro Mifune gives another great performance in the role Washizu, though the film is ultimately stolen by Isuza Yamada as Washizu’s wife, who pushes her husband to murder and then finds herself driven to insanity by his actions.  Throne of Blood is both a superior Shakespeare adaptation and a great Kurosawa film.

Music Video of the Day: Stuck In The Middle With You by Stealers Wheel (1973, dir by ????)

Well, we all know this song, don’t we?

Apparently, this song was inspired by a music industry cocktail party that the band attended.  It was also apparently inspired by Bob Dylan’s feelings towards the industry, though Dylan was not involved in recording or performing the song.

As for the video, what’s interesting is how literally it interprets the song.  Seriously, the poor guy really is stuck in the middle and he really does have clowns and jokers to either side of him!

Nobody loses an ear in this video.  That would come later….