“Immortals” Is Good Old Fashioned Adventure with A New Coat of Paint

When you take away the modern visual splendor and the explicit blood and gore, Tarsem Singh’s new film “Immortals” is a great old-fashioned adventure movie based on Greek mythology. I almost expected Steve Reeves* to appear in the film.

The film stars Henry Cavill as Theseus, a young peasant who lives with his mother as part of a costal Greek community. King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) wants a bow that descended from Mount Olympus during a war between the gods and the titans. Hyperion kills Theseus’ mother and the stage is set for the hero’s journey.

If it all sounds terribly familiar, it should. The story is typical, but the presentation is spectacular. The advertising makes a point that this film is produced by the same people who produced “300.” But Tarsem’s visual eye has been displayed long before that film with his debut “The Cell.” Since Tarsem and “300” director Zak Snyder were classmates together in film school, perhaps advertisers should have said “from the director who went to school with the director of ‘300’.”

The film is full of grand fights and battles. And the techniques used do remind a viewer of “300.” But is that so bad? Actually, while Snyder’s Greek epic imitated the visual style of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, “Immortals” looks more like it was painted. Each scene is filled with complex lighting and vivid colors.

The score and soundtrack are very busy throughout the film and, at times, overbearing. But “Immortals” will never be accused of being a subtle film.

The acting is fine, but a bit wooden at times. Cavill fills his role well, but at times seems to channel King Leonidas from “300.” As a side note, Cavill is currently filming in Zak Snyder’s new Superman film. Physically, he is perfect for the Man of Steel. Stephen Dorff shines as the thief Stavros, who provides a few needed scenes of levity.

I admit I have a fondness for Greek mythology and literature. It is difficult to be too harsh on the film. It has flaws, but it overcomes those by having great sets, costumes and action scenes.

  • Steve Reeves played Hercules during a run of Italian made fantasy films in the late 1950s. “Immortals,” perhaps unintentionally, serves as a homage to that era of fantasy filmmaking.

Palahniuk’s New Novel Is “Damned” Good

“Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.”

—  John Milton, Paradise Lost



Palahniuk's new novel features a young teenage girl's odyssey through Hell.

First I need to be honest about my love of Chuck Palahniuk’s first novel “Fight Club.” That book, along with the film, is like a religion to me. I can quote it. I have the book, the DVD, the Blu-ray, the soundtrack and I even have a shirt with a bar of pink soap printed on the front. So I am a little biased in favor of Palahniuk.

However, even an obsessed fan like myself found his novels to be a case of diminishing returns. His previous novel, “Pygmy,” was unreadable.

So I approached Palahniuk’s new novel, “Damned,” with a bit of trepidation. It turns out that, while quite flawed, “Damned” is his best work in years.

The novel is told from the perspective of thirteen-year-old Madison who begins her story with “Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Madison,” echoing Judy Blume. Madison, it turns out, has just died and is now a prisoner in Hell.  Her story moves back and forth from her previous life as the daughter of a famous actress and a successful businessman to her present death and adventures in Hell. She is an overweight girl who has a chip on her shoulder about everyone. When she dies, she is friendless.

It turns out that she enjoys Hell much more than her life on earth.

She brings together a group of troubled teens, a punk rocker, a geek, a rich girl and a football player. If it reminds the reader of the “Breakfast Club,” that should be no surprise. The novel, in an annoying fashion, constantly makes this connection. They escape from their cells and travel through Hell, eventually finding work as telemarketers.

It turns out that Hell is very much like the fundamentalist Christian view. Those who do not conform to that branch of Christianity get to spend eternity in the underworld.

Palahniuk works hard write as a teenage girl, but it is clearly his voice most of the time. But it is not a total failure on his part. Madison, who seems a bit too old in the beginning, starts to shine as she begins to take control of what appears to be an uncontrollable situation. The story takes some unexpected turns and ends on a perfect note, leaving the reader wanting more.

Palahniuk’s prose has always been a bit subversive and he always looks for ways to offend the general public. “Damned” features rivers of feces and a sea of sperm. However, if you can handle a scene in which Madison stops a giant female demon from killing her by sexually pleasing it with the decapitated head of a blue-haired punk rocker, you should be fine.

I recommend “Damned” for its entertainment value and some great twists. But you have been warned.

Publisher: Doubleday

247 pages, hardcover 

The Charity’s The Thing

Charities are everywhere. Television, radio, magazines and coffee shop information boards have a plethora of advertisements for charities with agendas from the political to the humanitarian.

I admit that I am a bit cynical about charities. Years ago, I worked for a few charities and found those ones to be very top heavy financially; the executives and the administrators took large chunks of the cash pie, leaving crumbs for those needing assistance. I understand that many large charities, like the Salvation Army, need well-qualified executives at the top. But others seem to be more about paying the top than helping the bottom.

So it was with a bit of a smirk that I received my class assignment: serve as an advocate for a nonprofit. This public relations project originally drew the jaded cynic out of me. My initial experience with the first charity I had planned to work with simply added to my experience. However, the founder of that charity backed out of the project and I was left with but minutes to present my professor with a new charity. That is when a frantic Internet search guided me to the Shakespeare Animal Fund.

In researching the fund, speaking to founder Jennifer Webb and speaking to people who have benefitted from the charity, I began to see that charities are very much like businesses, politicians and first dates; they need to be judged individually.

I was impressed that Webb moved Shakespeare out of its office on Keystone Ave. because the landlord began to charge rent and Webb did not want to take more money out of the charity’s fund.

I spoke to people who suffered serious medical problems and personal hardships. To compound their tribulations, their pets became ill. The Shakespeare Fund helped these people pay for their veterinary bills. One of the charity’s benefactors had no money to pay Shakespeare back, so she volunteered to help because she believed that the charity does something great for the community.

The Shakespeare Animal Fund has challenged me to rethink my somewhat negative view of charities. If I ever find evidence that a charity is abusing funds or not carrying out its promise to the community, I will make sure out community knows about it. But I now also feel a responsibility to tell Reno about charities that work hard to make our city a more humane place. They deserve to be heard.

Go to article about the Shakespeare Animal Fund

The Shakespeare Animal Fund Keeps Focus on Animals

With less people donating and an increased demand for services due to the lagging economy, the Shakespeare Animal Fund has had to turn people in need away, leaving some Reno pet owners with no choice but to give their animals to a shelter. Now the nonprofit has the added burden of not having an office to base its operations.

“We recently had to shut down our office because the landowner, who originally provided the space free of charge, began asking for rent,” said charity founder Jennifer Webb.

Already having to turn people away, Webb decided that paying rent would drain more cash from benefits the charity offers the public.

“I try to make sure as much of the money people donate to the Shakespeare Animal Fund is used to help people and pets in the community,” Webb said.

An all-volunteer staff operates the charity, which pays for emergency veterinary expenses for the elderly, disabled and others suffering financial difficulty in the Reno area. It also provides dog and cat food to those who need it. In some cases, these local pets have not had food for days.

According to its Web site, each $100 the charity receives “can make the difference whether an animal can be saved.”

Anyone interested in donating to the Shakespeare Animal Fund can call (775) 342-7040 or visit its Web site at shakespeareanimalfund.org.

Video produced by Paul George for the Shakespeare Animal Fund and Journalism 207/208 at the University of Nevada, Reno.

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.