Well, here it is! The sequel that no one demanded to the 2010 Clash of the Titans, the movie that almost destroyed the 3D revolution. It was a lousy script, lousy remake of the classic, campy 1981 original, and piss-poor 3D FX that caused migranes and made people leave the theater. The good news about being the follow-up to a film that bad is that the bar is set very low. So with a bar so low, did Wrath of the Titans do better...yes, but that's nothing to hang your helmet on.
The first thing the studio did to improve the franchise was fire original director Louis Leterrier, who did such a bad job with the first one. Sad considering he also directed The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton, which was not only the first in the Avengers series but a really well done film. They hired Jonathan Liebesman to grab the reigns and he does a much better job. Shocking since his previous films of Battle: LA, Darkness Falls and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning are all pretty bad, but I think that was the fault of the scripts and not the direction. Liebesman makes a far richer world this time around and creates some fairly exciting action sequences.
It's those sequences though that are the reasons why you buy a ticket. "That was a CGI-fest," said my friend Dave who went with me. It sure it, but c'mon...that's why you're there. You don't buy a ticket to see a film called Wrath of the Titans for seasoned acting or heartbreaking drama. You buy a ticket because you want to watch Sam Worthington (Avatar, Man on a Ledge) fight a two-headed demon dog with a tail that has a snake's head. And as specific as that request is in a film, you won't be disapointed because it's in the movie.
One problem that you have with a film that so heavily relies on CGI is that you usually get performances out of the actors that look faker than their surrondings. Wrath of the Titans is no different. It's padded with some wonderful actors like Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, Pirates of the Caribbean 2) and none show you why they're so respected in this. It could be because they are in scenes opposite of Worthington who is a terrible actor. Over the past three years, he's gained more and more popularity and I can't figure out why. His accent is never masked, which makes him appear as Sam Worthington in every movie; in Wrath he's just dirty Sam Worthington.
The story is one of simplicity and total fabrication. The first one at least was somewhat based on the legend of Perseus. This is a totally made-up Hollywood tale about how Perseus has to help his father, Zeus, to defeat a plot to resurrect his grandfather, Cronos, with the help of his uncle, Hades, and cousin, Aries. These are all real characters from Greek Mythology, but this story is not. It's simple, unjustified in the plot and silly at times; such as the decision to make Cronos a giant, lava monster for some reason.
The film is fun but you should expect more in every aspect. The only area that seems to be excellent is the CG FX, which deliver some pretty thrilling shots and sequences. But when you consider the fact that that's the only reason you really want to see Wrath of the Titans, you can leave your brain at the door and enjoy the pretty colors. Such a shame considering the rich world of Greek Mythology though. Wrath of the Titans (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C+
Another day another One Direction story. The boy bands hit "What Makes You Beautiful" will be featured in an episode of Glee next month. One Direction was no match for the Hunger Games on the charts however with the movie soundtrack debuting at #1 this week while 1D's "Up All Night" slipped to #4.
Im not sure who's starting all these rumours, maybe it's Simon Cowell himself just to make sure we keep talking about his X Factor show while its not on, but the latest rumblings have none other than Rihanna in talk to fill one of the open judging spots. Stay tuned
Taylor Swift will get some big time recognition at the Kid Choice Awards this weekend as Michelle Obama will present her with The Big Help Award because of all her charity work.
Justin Bieber is off and rolling releasing the first single from his new CD today. Look for his album Believe to come out this summer, but you can enjoy his song "Boyfriend" right now on the Hot New Music Page.
Speaking of new music, today is New Music Monday so listen up starting at 7 o'clock tonight for 3 new songs that we would like you to vote on. Two of the songs tonight are from soundtracks, Pitbull from the Men In Black 3 soundtrack and another song by Taylor Swift (not Safe and Sound) from the Hunger Games soundtrack. The 3rd song is by a new artist by the name of John West.
After Fergie shot down the rumors of her possibly judging on X Factor next season , speculation is now focusing on Jessie J. The only problem, Jessie J is already a judge on another show, the UK version of The Voice. The rumor is that Simon Cowel wants to triple her salary to tempt her into joining him stateside on the X Factor. I'll keep you posted.
Miley Cyrus tweeted today that she is not engaged. Her boyfriend Liam Hemsworth had a rather big weekend with his Hunger Games movie making 152.5 Million dollars in it's opening weekend. Liam of course was waiting to see if Katniss would win the Hunger Games before he would settle down with Miley! Haha
Well, the day is upon us! The Reaping is here! We get to finally see one of the most anticipated movies of the last 5 years. I first heard about this book about a year ago. My wife and I were flying to Italy and she randomly picked up a copy in the airport. I made fun of her for reading ANOTHER teen fiction book and then made fun of her again when she read the whole thing on the flight over and couldn't wait to get back so she could buy the next book in English (they were all in Italian over there). It wasn't until I buckled under peer pressure and read it for myself that I became obsessed and longed for the day the movie came out. Needless to say, the wait was worth it.
For anyone who doesn't know The Hunger Games, it's a story about a bleak future where America is gone and in its place is a new land that is ruled by the evil Capital that forces children to fight to the death for televised entertainment. (Yes, I'm totally aware that this is a blatant ripoff of the 2000 Japanese horror film, Battle Royale. Argument for another time.) To compare this book series to Twilight is a massive insult to The Hunger Games. Author Suzanne Collins goes much deeper and layers a story that makes the "love triangle" a very minor part. This is more of a statement about government oppression, class warfare, loss of liberty, the dangers of reality TV, the death of innocence, slave labor; I'm not sure if Collins had a political agenda when she wrote it, but it certainly seems like she did.
The film however takes all that into consideration and strains out all the fat from the story and what we're left with is a 142-minute-long version. Every movie that is adapted from a book goes through this process and for fans of the written word, it can be painful. There is only one film that I saw that was based on a book that I thought completely captured the tone and left every detail in and that was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Usually though, you walk away from the film with a vaguely satisfied feeling because the book was so much better. The Hunger Games is no exception, but it is one of the better ones I've seen.
Jennifer Lawerence (Winter's Bone, X-Men: First Class) is proof that the Academy was right for seeing such talent in her a few years ago. She plays Katniss with the control of a seasoned actress. Her fear, her pain, her frustration, her anger...it all looks genuine. She is the star that a film series of this magnitude needs and she pulls it off perfectly. The supporting cast is great as well and makes you sad they weren't utlized more. Woody Harrelson is awesomely cool as always, playing her surly trainer, Haymitch. They decided to make him less of a drunken fool in the film, which makes me wonder if they will expand his role in the later films to be bigger than the books do. Lenny Kravitz (Precious) and Elizabeth Banks (40-Year-Old Virgin, W.) are also fun to watch as the Capital lackies that gain a streak of conscienceness.
The casting of Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are Alright, Journey 2) and Liam Hemsworth (Knowing, The Last Song) is still up in the air for me. Neither of them showed me any signs that they should be memorable and they easily fade into the background among the other heavy-hitting talent, which is a problem when you consider how important both their characters are for the series. It's not that they're bad actors, but they're not good or memorable as of now.
I think the real star of The Hunger Games though is director Gary Ross. The studio took a huge gamble on him since his previous films are good but nothing like this. He's directed Big, Seabiscuit and Pleasantville. They're all sweet, fun movies but everyone was nervous about whether or not he could take on the vast and morally void world of The Hunger Games. An even bigger hurdle for him was that he had to make this brutally violent story PG-13. Not only does he accomplish all of it, but he knocks it out of the park. His approach to this film is one of patience and calculation. Some are arguing that his choice of using handheld camera work makes the film too jumpy and causes motion sickness. That's true but it's that brilliant technique that allows him to not skimp on the violence and still secure his family-friendly rating. It is however totally unneccesarry at times, such as The Reaping and others, where it's wobbily filmmaking for the sake of wobbily filmmaking.
This is just the beginning. Same would say this is the best installment in the series, but I would disagree. The stories yet to come are more dangerous, more complex and a lot more fun. After seeing the cast and crew assembled to make The Hunger Games, it makes me very happy to think that it's in great hands and they'll fix the minor problems later. The Hunger Games (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A-
Listen to Gavin's interview with Wes Bentley, who plays Seneca Crane in The Hunger Games.