Wrath of the Titans

Posted on March 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm

C-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Constant peril and violence with some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: A strength of the movie is the portrayal of a courageous female warrior
Date Released to Theaters: March 30, 2012
Amazon.com ASIN: B005LAIH54

What I love best about classically trained British actors is that they are game for anything.  Whether it is a commercial for cough drops or a silly comedy they always bring their A-game.  Their timing and diction are impeccable and they are masters of tone.  To use a favorite actor term, they commit.  But when they commit to material so far beneath them the contrast is so great that they just make the failings of the production harder to overlook.  Flawless line deliveries only go so far when the dialogue is more suitable for the declamatory stentorian tones of a Saturday morning cartoon version of “The Expendables” than voices more accustomed to iambic pentameter.

The original 1981 “Clash of the Titans” (featuring the most-acclaimed actor of his generation, Sir Laurence Olivier along with “L.A. Law” star Harry Hamlin along with Bond Girl Ursula Andress and the zenith of Ray Harryhausen’s analog special effects) and the 2010 remake with Oscar-winners Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes along with “Avatar’s” Sam Worthington and a lot of CGI have been succeeded by “Wrath of the Titans,” another uneasy mash-up of a sprinkle of distinguished actors, lots of beefcake, mythical monsters, and dialogue so ear-crashingly awful it is a step down from scripted awards-show presenter banter.  “Go to hell!” says one character.  “That’s exactly where I’m going,” says Perseus (Worthington).  He’s on his way to Hades, get it?  Since the majority of the box office for the first film was from outside the US, we can guess that perhaps the dubbed script is better.

Having released the Kracken and saved the day in the first episode, Perseus, the half human son of Zeus, is hoping for a quiet life as a fisherman with his young son.  When Zeus (Neeson) comes to ask for his help, Perseus declines.  But trouble comes his way as the era of the gods is ending, and Zeus is weakened so that his long-dormant father Cronus is poised to re-emerge and bring oblivion to all of humanity.  Perseus will have to save the day again, and that means finding (and rescuing) his half-god cousin Agenor (Toby Kebbell channelling Russell Brand, and not in a good way), visiting Hepaestus (much-needed breath of fresh air Bill Nighy), the Olympian version of Q, to pick up some weapons, and facing some Hellenic monsters, including a giant cyclops, a minotaur, and some beast-ish creatures.  There’s a lot of sound and fury and 3D spears pointing out from the screen but the storyline is muddled, with no consistency from moment to moment in character or even the basic properties of the Olympian world.  The script is downright painful, with bromantic trash talk that would be more appropriate at a 2012 mall than a Bronze Age battlefield.   “Shouldn’t you be posing for a statue or something?” “Bring me my lucky cape!” By the time Zeus and Hades (Fiennes) go into battle saying, “Let’s have some fun!” all we can think of is, “As if.”

(more…)

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“The Best Man” and My Dad’s Un-Conventional Idea

Posted on March 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I’m very proud of my dad’s piece in Politico today about the advantages of a brokered convention.

I’ve been at a brokered convention and worked for a candidate who came out of it. Even though my candidate lost the general election, it was still a far more robust and constructive process than the primary-caucus marathon of the past half-century.

My dad, who has been involved in national, state, and local campaigns since 1948, says that

primary voters push GOP candidates to the right, and Democratic candidates left. Independent voters, who occupy the center, wonder why the parties nominate candidates who don’t represent their views. The nominees then spend the general election recanting what they said in the primaries, to persuade the independents, who decide elections.

We thought getting rid of the brokered conventions would do away with smoke-filled rooms and backroom deals. We just substituted one set of bosses for another.

I also read today that a new production of Gore Vidal’s play, “The Best Man” is about to open on Broadway with an all-star cast that includes “Will and Grace” star Eric McCormack, Candace Bergan, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, and, in a small role, Donna Hanover, who knows something about politics as the former wife of the mayor of New York City.  Vidal, whose political expertise was in part based on his being related to Jaqueline Kennedy, penned a sharp story about two Presidential candidates at a brokered convention along the lines of the ones my dad wrote about.  The movie version, starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson, is one of my all-time favorite political dramas and as timely as the day it was written.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbJoI6yToc4
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Winners: “Lion of Judah,” “Under Our Skin,” and “Happy Feet 2”

Posted on March 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Thanks for entering!  The lucky winners are:

Lion of Judah — Jay S., Olathe KS; Latonya R., Hattiesburg MS; David D., New Cumberland PA
Under Our Skin — Barbara G., Bronxville NY; Lucretia P., Morgantown West VA
Happy Feet Two — Kathy G, Mead CO

Don’t forget — this is the last day to enter the contest for “The Muppets!”  Be sure to read the directions carefully.

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Interview: Lily Collins of “Mirror Mirror”

Posted on March 29, 2012 at 8:01 am

Lily Collins was so gracious I felt I really was talking to a fairy tale princess.  The daughter of rocker Phil Collins appeared in “The Blind Side” and this joyous, gorgeously re-imagined updating of “Snow White” is her first starring role.  She talked to me about learning how to sword-fight and her favorite advice about acting.

 

We have to talk about the swan dress.

I know, the head and the wings were just the most beautiful little accompaniment to the outfit…I would forget, though, that I had them both on, and I would go to squeeze by people and forget that my span was much longer and I would sometimes knock things over with them, but they were so beautiful and intricately made, so delicate and absolutely like pieces of art, they were an honor to wear.

How does it make you feel different to look at yourself fin the mirror and see that? 

Well, it definitely helps get into character when you’re wearing a corset everyday, you truly do feel like the character, it makes all the difference in the world. But also, they were so emblematic of who Snow was—and in the tone of the movie it just amped up the feeling of the film..

The sword fights are amazing!  Tell me what kind of training you did and what that was like.

Armie Hammer and I trained including during the filming for about four months.  It was very intense, lots of sweating and bruises, but it was so much fun and I had never imagined that I would get to do something like that before.

This is the first time we’ve seen him in a comic role.

He’s hilarious! He’s kind of the perfect mixture of being goofy and aloof in the role, as well as being a gentleman, totally regal, and very, very humble. Armie is, as a person as well, just kind of great mixture of all these different attributes. Most of all, I didn’t realize how much of a jokester and how funny he is, he can make you laugh at the top of the hat.

What was the biggest challenge of filming for you?

I’d never done a film a big as this before, or worked as many hours as I did—and I think it was just making sure I maintained that balance of work and being able to rest and take care of myself, because I did do so many different new things on this film, and I was in a foreign place and on my own there, and it was really just making sure I kept a defined balance between having my time to be myself as well as the character.

This is a very different version of Snow White than we’ve seen before, and not just different in the plotline, but a very different version of the characters. So if her name was Snow Jones, who is she and how did you imagine her?

I really wanted to play her, not as a caricature of a fairy tale princess or as an animated character; I wanted to make her a real girl who was feisty, and who really was passionate, and learned throughout the process that she went through with the dwarfs and experiencing new things, she learned to believe in herself and found that it was what was inside her that made her able to conquer her dreams and go after what she believed in. Never once does she look in the mirror herself, because she’s never aware of what her beauty means, or that she is even as beautiful as everyone says she is. It was really what she found within herself through her new friends and experiences. So, I think she was someone who was very open to spontaneity and life and love, and someone who wasn’t afraid to get a little dirty at times, to go and fight, be on par with the prince and not allow the fact that she was a girl change anything.

I was very touched by the scene near the beginning where you leave the palace for the first time.. The look on your face was so radiant and luminous, and you became aware for the first time what was out there. Tell me a little bit about your process, what was it that you were thinking and how did you achieve that?

I try to put myself in the shoes of whatever character I’m playing and I guess I just imagine the idea of really what it would be like if I was locked away and not allowed to go out and really had the courage to step outside my comfort zone, and experience what was outside of the castle.  I thought about the idea of meeting a man for the first time and how it kind of made me feel something other than what I was used to, and the idea of being shocked at the reality of a situation, not really knowing was evil was, because Snow was kept away so long that she doesn’t really see what evil is.  So when she goes through the village for the first time, she’s so genuinely hurt by it that she can’t help but show her sadness and kind of the inner-child quality of pure disappointment and confusion. So, I try to just put myself in the character’s shoes, and because it’s the beginning of the story, she’s still very much a child in that sense, seeing everything for the first time. I think of how a child would react—children react in such a genuine way and they don’t think, really, how their reactions are going to affect people, they just let it come out; that’s how she was at the beginning.

What was the best advice that you got about acting?

To remember that you are playing someone other than yourself, and so when taking on a role, of course, it’s you taking on a role, so you’re going to add a bit of yourself, but it’s okay to separate your own beliefs and your own characteristics from this character, because that’s what acting is—you’re taking on another role. If you’re going to go for it, go for it, and dedicate yourself 100% to something, because if you’re fully in a character and you go for it, there’s nothing like feeling that feeling of accomplishing, something as someone else, if you’re really going to be a part of the story and be a different character, you should put your whole heart and soul into it, because once you’re dedicated to it, it really comes across.

 

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