Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Titans Come Roaring Back

A fresh set of faces, [slightly] better writing and quality effects helps Wrath of the Titans overcome it's dismal beginnings.

SPOILER ALERT! This post assumes you have scene this movie as we freely discuss the film's plot, developments and effects. You have been warned, mortal.


ARTH VADER (AV): Well I'm happy to say that this movie, while not the best in its category, is a far more compelling experience over the first film, Clash of the Titans. While a bit devoid of depth and substance, this movie set out to further the trials and hardships of hero Perseus (played by hunky Sam Worthington) as he embarks on a quest that leads to a showdown between Kronos and the Gods. I don't know my Greek mythology well enough to know how this syncs with actual myth but I do know I generally liked it. Though I found his widower status a bit odd since his wife was in essence a mystical being, clearly she was an unnecessary carryover from the first film. Pontificator, what were your thoughts on this movie's continuity?
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Greek Mythology has some very stable elements to it that any story can be crafted from Vader. The best ones are those that consume our imagination with familiar elements that we recognize...and show us something new. This film is a continuation of the first and although it is a shining example of using the mythology to craft something new, it sticks with the continuity created by the fist film and expands this new corner of the vast world supported by these myths.

Most of the big names returned for another dose in Wrath. The most notable addition was the lovely Rosamund Pike as Andromeda, though I must say, I didn't really understand her role int he story, Ponty. I got she was a warrior Queen leading a legion of soldiers in a battle against the Pissed-off Titans but I was OK without the lack of background. She stepped up being a new, flirty love-interest and I was good.
TP: There were no Oscar performances here, but there was excellent direction as the film flowed through each sequence and the choice of cast, some returning from the first film, were all great choices for the product presented. Sam Worthington convinced me that Perseus was a real person and you can never go wrong with veteran actors Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes. Bill Nighy and Danny Huston are also old hands at delivering quality making it easy for Edgar Ramirez to play off them and opening the door wide for the comic relief of Toby Kebbell.
AV: As for the direction, good stuff here. I firmly believe that as more movies embrace 3D technology, more of them will use it wisely. This movie did a masterful job of displaying a sense of depth and scale that was both impressive and added to the story's scope, believability and story. This is why we go to movies. To see what we just can't get at home, no matter how big our flat screens get.

The special effects in this film were awesome. For a movie laden with creatures of all types and dependent upon the believability of the unique interactions those creatures have with everyone else on screen, the effects delivered. There were so many areas that this film could have gone wrong...but it delivered the goods regardless of the complexity of the sequence. What do you think Vader?
AV: A shiny gold star here, Pontificator! The effects shots in this movie were paced and presented really well! Lot's of cool, multi-headed beasts, giant earth-shaking volcanic explosions and the amazing power of the Gods when they retaliate against said adversaries–is all just gorgeous. From the giant interlocking walls of the Titan's crypt to the explosive volcanic climatic battle between the Gods and Kronos, the viewer is treated to a sate-of-the-art effects experience that really puts me on the back a Pegasus himself! My favorite scene is in Hades' realm where Zeus is shackled and is having his power siphoned off to empower Kronos (king of the Bad dudes and God of ultimate naughtiness or something)!  The sheer size of the environment and of Kronos himself defies true description. Suffice it to say, you will be awestruck.
TP: I must say, this was the first film I’ve seen that delivered the 3D goods... and kept delivering well into the film. I made a mental note of this in the theater when I caught myself flinching because the action was in-my-face as it jumped off the screen and into my lap! The closest I’ve seen thus far to the kind of quality that can be found at Walt Disney World... but for a lot less!


Not sure on this one, Ponty. I don't know if there is much to go deep with here. Perseus is continuously denying his heritage as a Godling and his unbelievable protesting, especially to his daddy, the almighty Zeus is more than a little annoying. He should have overcome much of this in his firs Kracken-busting adventure. I neither believe in nor do I care for Perseus' reluctance. They are short-sighted, shallow and unbelievable (remember, this is guy that rides a flying horse). For me, it kind of takes the wind out of the sails for the character. What's more a lot has been 'taken off the table' by this film's end. No more Gods? No more Hades? Zeus and Poseidon are dead? Really? Kind of hard to conceive of–given the context. What did you think, Pontificator?

TP: It was all here, although not in equal parts. There was plenty of action, a bit of comedy and even a little drama, especially when it came to the feelings Perseus conveyed for the safety and love of his son. The constant denial of his heritage wasn’t a problem for me Vader as it struck me as sensible considering he just wanted to live a normal life with his son...and the more he wanted it, the less likely it seemed that it would come true. This is also the reason I didn’t have an issue with the resolution of the end of the Gods since it means that the life Perseus longs for is ever closer to becoming real. My only gripe is one of the same I had with the first film and it’s that Perseus never comes off as a seriously skilled fighter ala “300” or “Troy” and anyone that’s a half-god charged with saving the world should be... in my opinion.

I smell a trilogy coming, Ponty! As this film is undeniably better than the first, I can't imagine that this movie re-upped with so much A-List Hollywood talent to stop at two. There is too much money to be made and I think we've only scratched the surface of the possibilities. While dead and diluted Gods will a be hard story to further, the end-scene where Perseus hands his mystic sword over to his son is a telling tale of things that might be. Though the storytellers in the Titans are running out of mythological beings pretty quickly, there is plenty of life, if they so chose, in the story. I think a third 'Titans' flick is not only doable but inevitable. After all, it only took them 20 months to knock this one out. 
TP: Well Vader, I would be perfectly happy if they didn’t make another film since this one ended very neatly, although the door was slightly ajar for another installment. The real question is with this film being so much better than the first, where do you go from here? With no Gods and nearly every mythological creature already met, where is the upside? I fear a third installment will fall flat and give this possible trilogy a bad taste with only one of the three films being worth watching. Only the future knows for sure.

ARTH VADER Rates Wrath of The Titans: With a slightly better story, much more impressive effects and strong box office performance, Wrath of the Titans equals a good empty-headed time at the movies. If you don't look too deep for meaningful content, you'll be pleasantly surprised–which is more than I can say for the first Titans flick. All given, I found Wrath of the Titans (barely) deserving of seven busted blocks, as the mechanical owl flies.

THE PONTIFICATOR Wrath of the Titans: I really enjoyed this film as it didn’t require me to study, analyze or contemplate in the least. All I had to do was sit back, eat my popcorn and enjoy the ride...and I enjoyed it immensely. The story flowed and seemed to race against itself keeping me engaged while the effects were stunning enough to make me notice I had been stunned. Although still somewhat struggling to reach mythological proportions, it managed to bludgeon  seven blocks.

Wrath of the Titans: 7/10 Busted Blocks

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hunger Games Eating the Box Office

One of the year's most anticipated movies delivers controversial material served with a full menu of great performances. 


ARTH VADER (AV): This one was an odd one for me, Pontificator. While two of my teenagers and my girlfriend (along with countless legions of understandably loyal fans) raved about this movie adaptation of TV writer-turned-novelist Suzanne Collin's famed series of arena-of-teenage-death, I come from the unfortunate perspective of having not read this great series. Therefore my comments here (on Continuity) will be limited. Suffice it to say that I understand this movie did the book justice, but even at a run-time of better than 2 hours, the all-too-familiar "the book was better" comment comes into play. Yet, with a $78 million dollar opening weekend, this movie is definitely resonating with audiences and fans the world over!
THe PONTIFICATOR (TP): Indeed Vader... it resonated with me as well, but in a disturbing way. The movie stayed very close to the book except for a couple of minor changes that didn’t degrade the movie or detract from the enjoyment of the book. In the book, Katniss had more trouble finding water than she did in the film, and Haymitch was drunk a lot more instead of sobering up as he did. Minor changes, not a huge departure, kept this film very much in line with the original source material. 


AV: The beautiful and super-talented, Jennifer Lawrence (known to some for her portrayal of Mystique in last year's surprisingly well-done X-Men:First Class) stole the show. Lawrence's portrayal of the reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen was near-flawless. If anything, the film's pacing did not give us apt opportunity to truly take in her performance. I was (pleasantly) stunned by the array of A-List talent this movie tossed at us including Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz and Woody Harrelson. Award-winning director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Big, Tales of Desperaux) who displayed some funky experimental camera work that I was NOT a big fan of. That aside I gotta say, it's hard not to be star struck with Hunger Games. How say you, Ponitifcator?
TP: A very well directed film with excellent acting by all the cast members. It doesn’t take super big names in lead roles to make a great film, just actors dedicated to bringing out their best performance. Jennifer Lawrence gives a superb performance as Katniss Everdeen and the awkward chemistry between her and Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) only elevates their delivery. Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci deliver as expected of two very established and respected masters of their craft.


AV: While I truly cherished this movie (mostly), special effects were not really a big component. The few effects that were worth mentioning were well handled. The chariot-of-fire and the ceremony in the city were both quite impressive. While the grander views of the city were distinctly unimpressive, the effects were all a general order of good. The pacing of this movie was off for me, Pontificator. There were points I felt the film dragged while others moved at a blistering, action-movie pace, though overall, pacing was up-tempo.
TP: There were more special effects in this film than I expected, and they were all done very well. I was sold on the world that was presented as evidenced by my lingering reaction to this film. Most of the CGI didn’t appear obvious, but I found one part to be...and I believe it was by design given the nature of what was happening. The rest of it was just like getting a glimpse of the not-so-distant future technology. 


 AV: I am going to share something about this movie that I find deeply troubling, Ponty. Not since Lord of the Flies has there been such a disturbingly blatant storyline of children killing children. This story harbors the influence of a number of additional literary references, all equally repulsive. The classic American short story "The Most Dangerous Game" is the tale of blood-thirsty hunter tired of killing animal for sport so he resorts to man beings. This is the binary premise behind Hunger Games and it is ugly. The story shares a dystopian perspective that is built around a society that watches this horrific bloodshed of child-on-child aggression as a reality TV show. Why there is NO public outcry over this is so far beyond me—and the insanity behind this show being a reality TV show, mind boggling. Furthermore, the infuriating realization that those controlling the game could force desired events in the arena was somehow very uncomfortable to me as it further illustrated the preposterous nature of this "tournament." As a father with children, I can promise you, 12-year-olds have NO chance against 18-year-olds. Ridiculous.
TP: The deeper look I took didn’t have anything to do with how much comedy, drama or action there was in this film...although there was much of the latter, and a sparse bit of the former. The look I took was into the society we live in today and how it’s just a stone’s throw from the world of “Hunger Games.” Classism isn’t new and is becoming an extreme issue when thinking about the recent Occupy Movement. I was struck by the underlying apathy and decadence in the film of a society that takes pleasure and makes sport of the death of children. How far away are we from such a society should violence flourish as a last expression of the downtrodden and ultimate power is then usurped by the privileged among us? This wasn’t a horror film, but the underlying profound presentation of our flawed humanity certainly scared me.
ARTH VADER'S SPECIAL HUNGER GAMES RANT: I don't want to go too far off the deep end with this but the disturbing premise of this movie really is sickening. I realize our little fun Fanboy blog may not be the place to wax outrageous, but I will say of all the movies that have gotten flack in our specified genre here at the Boxed Office, this movie is the movie that gets a pass by the public at large? I guess if our society can stomach movies about Human Centipedes or maniacs disemboweling young people, then I guess this is where that road leads. In truth I applaud Ms. Collins for taking this reality TV show to the zenith–this is, in sorts, a cautionary tale of what course we are on as a culture if present trends continue. As ever, the human condition baffles me, and I am saddened by the public acceptance of this movie's topic, if not the movie itself. END RANT
TP: I fully agree with this rant. 


AV: Any book that does this well–this fast–and generates the kind of media buzz this movie has, will be a franchise jackpot. This is just the beginning. With two other books (Mockingjay and Catching Fire) in the series all wildly successful, there will be no stopping this new franchise juggernaut. Evidently, I need to add this series to my already bloated MUST READ list, Ponty. I will be interested to see how this saga develops both in print and onscreen.
TP: The word is, “Catching Fire” will be released on November 22, 2013. It will be the last two novels in the trilogy rolled into one movie. Even if this film wasn’t based off of a book, I’d expect another film just because this one didn’t really bring closure and left a few doors wide open.

ARTH VADER Rates The Hunger Games: No better cast can be found for a movie in this genre. Smart, action packed, excellent film work and acting along with a highly disturbing sub-text our society, “Hunger Games” is smart, foreboding and entertaining. A disturbing look into a bloodthirsty future, “Hunger Games” is enchanting and thoughtful. In a dead run to the cornucopia, I give this movie nine disturbed busted blocks.
THE PONTIFICATOR The Hunger Games: This is a superb film filled with a little bit of something for everyone. The most striking part of this movie is the impression it leaves long after the credits have stopped rolling and the theater falls silent. Anyone really paying attention to the world we live in will see so much more in this movie than just action sequences and special effects. I saw life’s ugly reflection... and it busted nine very disturbing blocks.

The Hunger Games: 9/10 Busted Blocks