Clash of the Titans: Don’t worry, America: there’s still plenty of Sam Worthington to go around! In fact, he’s gonna keep turning up as the lead in expensive mega-movies until you remember his name, goddammit. Clash of the Titans won’t be the movie to do it, although it’s nice to hear Worthington’s native Australian accent creep out of his mouth. As far as unnecessary remakes go, the old Clash of the Titans from 1981 is actually a pretty good choice; it’s an enjoyable bit of cheese, but nothing so sacred that it couldn’t be upgraded, or at least non-ruined, with the big-budget effects treatment. The hitch in this plan, apart even from the allegedly awful 3-D conversion that was done, like, two days ago (heeding internet advice, productively for once, I only saw the 2-D version), is like something out of a time-travel movie. Just as the 1981 movie contained effects that could’ve been produced a decade earlier and looked outdated in the wake of Star Wars, the 2010 Clash of the Titans fails to match the likes of Avatar (obviously) or even Star Trek or the better Harry Potters. That’s not to say the effects work is bad; in fact, like the original, it retains a bit of retro charm, even without anything so handmade as the Harryhausen stop-motion.
Also like the original, creatures are easily the most engaging and inventive aspect as director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter; Unleashed; punching a bit out of his class here) re-travesties the Greek myths for a story about Perseus (anonymous international superstar Worthington) attempting to save Argos and a pretty girl from the wrath of Zeus, Hades, and their delightful pet kraken. Apart from Perseus’s motivation—familial-minded revenge rather than love at first sight—the story proceeds much as it did thirty years ago, illustrating that “videogame” style plots have been around long before most actual videogames. Disqualifying the creatures—eyeless witches; wicker-looking desert-dwellers riding giant scorpions; that lumpy kraken—and the hammy gods (Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes in the least classy Schindler’s List reunion imaginable without involving a strip club), the only semi-person of interest is Io (Gemma Arterton), the token lady demigod, not present in the first film. And yet: of the
four three (see you this summer, Leaves of Grass) April 2nd releases I’ve seen, Titans is easily the most satisfying. It’s ridiculous and silly and fairly pointless, but its onslaught of neat stuff for twelve-year-olds is far less headache-inducing than, say, a Michael Bay or Stephen Sommers extravaganza.
Breaking Upwards: I was excited to see Breaking Upwards based on an unusually well-cut trailer for a no-budget indie relationship movie, and while the film itself has its moments, as well as some distinct, color-saturated photography of Manhattan, and an engagingly peevish performance from Zoe Lister-Jones, who cowrote this semi-autobiographical relationship dramedy with her (ex?) boyfriend, and director/co-star, Daryl Wein. Wein and Lister-Jones retain their real first names as a couple in their early twenties, four years into a pleasant but vaguely stifling relationship. They decide to go part-time: they will stay together four days a week, and stay apart for three. Though it doesn’t (quite) begin as a bid to see other people, those inevitable complications pop up, as do jealousy, separation anxiety, codependence, and an emerging, occasional sense of freedom. They also spend a lot of time talking to their respective parents. Like the recent The Exploding Girl, Breaking Upwards feels like an offshoot of the mumblecore movement, with tighter character focus and less crummy-looking photography. Unlike Exploding, it’s not quite able to make up for its lack of story by excelling as a character study, maybe because Breaking Upwards does actually have a story, and just tells it poorly, strangely lacking a sense of time (example: Olivia Thirlby is in the movie, sort of, for exactly two abbreviated scenes). It has moments of real beauty and observation, but they don’t flow together. The film feels out of sync before anyone breaks up.
Leaves of Grass: As it turns out, this movie is not actually opening this weekend. It was about to open on a single screen apiece in NYC and L.A., but at the last minute a better distributor took it off First Look Studios hands, with plans for a wider (presumably still limited) summer release. I wonder if this had something to do with Roger Ebert’s four-star rave; the Chicago-based Ebert took the unusual step of publishing the review on his site well in advance of any scheduled Chi-town opening, probably fearing that it might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. I’m glad to see Edward Norton (who stars as twins) and Tim Blake Nelson (who writes, directs, and co-stars) getting more attention; I only wish the movie itself were as great as Ebert says. I’ll offer more when the movie actually comes out, apparently sometime this summer, but I will say that both of Norton’s characters, one a classics prof and the other a pot dealer, have different versions of the actor’s sneaky intelligence, and Norton plays off himself with skill. Given what can rustle up a 1,500-screen release, dumping this one would be pretty unfair.
- Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes, don’t look around my eyes, look into my eyes, you’re under.
The Last Song: You can get the full, possibly unnecessary 700-word scoop in my review; the real question is how does this movie compare to Dear John, the last Nicholas Sparks attack on the youth market? The Last Song has a tiny bit more camp value and might actually succeed in making its target audience cry (I couldn’t picture the latter happening in Dear John), but in the battle of respectable fatherly performances in the middle of total dreck, Richard Jenkins in John might have the edge over Greg Kinnear in Song. But if you look at movies as investments—and no doubt Sparks and Miley’s handlers must, on some level—Dear John contains an uninteresting performance from an actress who is developing into an interesting screen presence [And a kind of awesomely candid offscreen one. -Ed.], while this new one contains an uninteresting performance from a singer and television personality who needs some more work if she’s going to be dead center of a nearly two-hour feature film.
Why Did I Get Married Too?: I have never seen a Tyler Perry movie; even after the initial critical beatings subsided, and I believe I Can Do Bad All By Myself got some decent post-release reviews, Lionsgate and Perry have proven none too eager to screen them for critics. This one doesn’t seem like an ideal starting point, being a sequel that advertises itself like a particular pivotal episode of a TV series, and also having Janet Jackson. But likely it will make its $50 million or so and Perry will cement his status as a more consistent source of Lionsgate profits than that jerk Jigsaw (aw, just kidding; RIP, Jigsaw; we passed the healthcare bill for you, bro!).
The Greatest: I only know that this movie has a pretty cool cast and is about a family dealing with the death of their young son. Is it an effects-free Lovely Bones? It certainly has Susan Sarandon, so maybe. It also has multiple cast members from An Education (Carey Mulligan, Cara Seymour), and Pierce Brosnan, who has become a weird male version of Susan Sarandon, where I’m pretty sure he’ll play a dad in just about anything you ask him to. So having them play parents is kind of perfect. Also, Michael Shannon, last seen awesoming it up in The Runaways, is somewhere in there, too. It doesn’t sound like the worst thing ever but it doesn’t seem like anyone knows it’s coming out.