Considering some of the current A-listers in the cast of Wrath Of The Titans, one can only assume that this was a payday project. This is your very typical action-adventure trash and there isn’t very much fun to be had.
The follow up to the 2010 remake of Clash Of The Titans brings back the usual suspects. Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Feinnes repeat as Grecians/Gods Perseus, Zeus and Hades respectively. It also brings back the monotonous feeling that it’s predecessor had.
This time around, our now settled down hero Perseus is drawn back into the game by his old friends. Sounds like every other action you’ve ever seen yet? Hades aligns forces with some other baddies, to steal Zeus’ power and awaken a monster. Perseus has to fight his way through a team of Cyclops, a minotaur, and various other fire creatures to save Zeus.
Outside of the visual effects and sword waving, there’s not much that the characters actually do. Worthington repeatedly shows his dirty and bloodied war face while holding his emotions locked inside the best he can. The dialogue is drab. The story is weak. Why would the father of two Greek gods be a lava throwing fire creature?
This feeble movie was made purely for the profit. Clash Of The Titans (2010) almost quadrupled its $125 million dollar budget at the box office, which pretty much guaranteed a sequel was going to follow. Being a movie that relied heavily on special effects, it also pretty much guaranteed that the soul of the sequel would be missing.
While watching this one, I pondered the question if we have spoiled ourselves with special effects. I knew some of the CGI I was watching was massive and impressive, yet it did nothing to move me.
Seeing it in 2D, maybe this is the type of movie that is well fit in the 3D format? There sure isn’t much else driving this film, so why not delight in the low-brow thrill of a movie fireball heading right for your head? I don’t see much else to take from it.
Did I just watch a documentary on American Idol, where instead of voting the losers off, they just kill them? Possibly, but Idol was never as entertaining.
The Hunger Games is set in a post-war dystopian future, where the United States is now a country called Panem, and split into districts instead of state, two commoners from each district are chosen to savagely fight to the death for the entertainment of the ruling class. It’s a form of punishment to keep the common people in line, which the upper class have spun, now calling it a national tradition.
These chosen children, range in age from their late teens to a disturbingly young age. This is perhaps the darkest element of this dark film. Watching the upper class celebrate the fact that they are sending kids out to the slaughter makes it pretty easy to cheer for their downfall.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is the heroine, who has to live up to her potential. The one
thing that really drives this movie is Jennifer Lawrence. She’s a young actress, but you can tell there is something behind her eyes and in her face. Her honesty on-camera makes you believe her. She’s the opposite of a blank slate, even if she hasn’t realized what her potential is yet. The future is bright for her.
The supporting cast is surprisingly strong. Woody Harelson plays Hamish, an alcoholic former Hunger Games winner that mentors the fresh meat. Lenny Kravitz surprises with a passionate performance, despite the gold eyeliner. Stanley Tucci is the Hunger Game emcee and his fake teeth were basically a character to themselves.
The Hunger Games falls into the new franchise-category of movies that include Harry Potter and Twilight. It’s also pretty hard not to make comparisons to the aforementioned similar films. There is a lead character destined for greatness. There is a love triangle forming. There is a greater evil hovering over the lives of the characters.
The film is not without its faults. There was part of me that wanted to cast off this movie series as just another brick in the wall, but there is an impressive level of achievement here, which cannot be denied.
In this frenzied and seemingly unstoppable world of movie remakes, I am calling a new rule. All remakes now must have enough whim to make fun of the fact that they are remakes. Without this self deprecating humor, remakes, reboots and reimaginings are useless wastes of time.
2009’s Star Trek reboot managed to throw a bit into the mix and therefore was a success. The film version of 21 Jump Street does it too.
The slim-fasted Jonah Hill stars alongside Channing Tatum as police officers in an undercover unit featuring young looking and acting officers, allowing them to pose as high schoolers. Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) assignment is to track down the dealers and suppliers of a new drug that’s popular with teens.
While their experience of re-learning high school etiquette is amusing, some of the real laughter comes from when the film is mocking itself. A speech to Hill & Jenko from their Deputy Chief (Nick Offerman) about rehashing old ideas may be one of the funnier comic bits I’ll see this year.
What makes the character’s high school experience quite entertaining is that you feel their experience from a teenager’s perspective. Just about every single adult in the film could care less about themselves, their situation or how any of the teens feels. That comic disconnect carries a lot of weight.
There are countless subtle references to 80’s action films that again amuse, but don’t necessarily make the film. Ice Cube, who in his younger days notoriously rapped “F*** Tha Police,” now serves as their stereotypical angry Police Chief. Again amusing, but not fall down funny.
Fans of the original TV show won’t find much that looks too familiar, sans a couple special appearances that you need to keep your eyes peeled for. Throwing little bones like that to your dedicated audience base goes a long way. Go see this movie.
If not for the predictable and unnecessarily long ending, which includes a sad attempt as creating it’s own R-Rated “you had me at hello” tag line, I might have really liked Friends With Kids.
The movie is the brainchild of beautifully adorable indie actress Jennifer Westfeldt, who wrote, directed and stars as the lead female. (She’s also notably the long term girlfriend of Jon Hamm, who is also in the film.) The story involves a late 30’s couple with a platonic friendship between Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt) who decide they want a child. They don’t want the attachment of marriage to weigh down their relationship, seeing how it’s changed their two pairs of friends for better and worse (Hamm & Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph & Chris O’Dowd.)
Jason and Julie’s strength in friendship and their adult attitude about the situation they’ve chosen for themselves is quite impressive. I really can’t say I know a couple that might be able to pull off their platonic-parenting status, but maybe that’s because the idea seems to be something only the guys in the movie understand. They get the companionship and the family but they also get to sleep with other people.
With the New York setting and the open conversations about the relationship, you can’t help but feel in Woody Allen influence. It was quite entertaining, until they dive into the pool of predictable romance-comedies.
Still, Friends With Kids deserves more credit. The ensemble cast is very strong and believable. The story and tension between the characters is true to life. I liked Scott with the lead role. He’s thought out and engaged in the “now” of the film.
Without being preachy, the film also makes arguments, pro and con about the alternative family situation that’s developed. To my dismay, it ends making a rather traditional decision. That third act is nearly painful to watch. Considering how unusual the relationship between Jason & Julie is, it doesn’t seem believable that they start acting like people do at the end of a typical rom-com.
I didn’t appreciate that and frankly felt a little cheated. It was like getting a present wrapped in a giant box, only to find the gift is actually the size of a coin and not that valuable.
It doesn’t quite live up to my childhood memory of my favorite Dr. Seuss book, but the Hollywood version of The Lorax isn’t an updated fail.
The reason this family friendly movie doesn’t fail is because it passed my kid-friendly test in the theater. Basically, when you watch the film, it’s whether you hear kids getting restless. It was silent for the showing I attended, which means it kept kids engaged.
The story of The Lorax, Once-ler, Truffula trees, Swanny Swans and the thneeds that we all need is familiar with some add ons. The main character Ted (Zac Efron) is a young boy trying to win the affections of a girl who wants to see a tree. (The things guys will do to get the girl.) The rest of the cast is as colorful as a handful of candy. Danny DeVito, Betty White & Ed Helms all deliver likeable performances. Helm’s musical numbers stand out as favorites.
The introduction of Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle) as a greed hungry corporate power monger who sells clean air to the residents of their cordoned off home town was extraneous. Maybe they needed a villain beyond the Once-ler for everyone to hate, but I felt it muddied the plot.
I caught the film in 2D, although it’s also being shown in the 3D format. You can tell what scenes are meant to pop out at you, but I felt the vibrant colors and animation stood out plenty in the base format.
Loving the book, I also enjoy the message of The Lorax, which is basically that we should care about each other. That, and the dangers of unchecked corporate greed in a capitalist society. It also doesn’t hit you over the head with the message. It’s a nice family treat.