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Wrath of the Titans: Bland Action Sequel
Hades (Fiennes) and Ares (Ramirez) have conspired to kidnap Zeus (Neeson) and use his power to break Kronos, king of the titans and father of Hades, Zeus and Poseidon (Huston), out of Tartarus, where his three sons had imprisoned him after they overthrew him. Only Perseus (Worthington), Zeus’ demigod son, can avert this calamity and save the world. Accompanied by Queen Andromeda (Pike) and Poseidon’s demigod son Agenor (Kebbell), the trio try to find a way to free Zeus from the underworld so he can help them in the fight against Kronos.
The film’s plot fulfils only one purpose: to connect the various fights and battle scenes together. Seriously, don’t question anything or you’ll uncover a ton of gaping plot holes. And while these fights are initially pretty cool, after Perseus has fought a chimera, Cyclops and a Minotaur, you start to get kind of bored and then there are still battles with Hades and Ares and Kronos to sit through. And while the fights /mythical creatures look good, there’s nothing particularly exceptional about them that’ll hold your attention for the entire film.
The film looks blandly pretty in a sand-strewn kind of way. Everything looks good but nothing stands out or grabs your attention. These swords and sandals flicks are a dime a dozen and after last year’s Immortals, the bar has been raised tremendously on eye popping visuals. Unoriginality seems to be a common thread here because the 3D is absolutely wasted. It’s mainly used only to chuck a bunch of rocks at the audience. There are some scenes that are pretty eye popping though. Perseus, Andromeda and Agenor trying to navigate their way through a labyrinth to get to Kronos comes to mind. The labyrinth’s walls shift, tilt and rearrange themselves while the trio try to get through it before they’re squeezed to a bloody pulp or tossed off the edge.
The most surprising thing about the film is how it’s filled with heavyweight actors who are barely recognisable. Both Fiennes and Nighy were unrecognisable under their costumes and wigs. But the problem wasn’t just in their appearance. These two actors who are usually pretty electric just weren’t even trying. And it wasn’t just them either. Worthington continues his quest to blend into the background of every film he’s in and Neeson sleepwalks through his dignified, wise man shtick.
Wrath of the Titans can be summed up in three words: beige, bland, and forgettable.
For his latest feature film, Woody Allen decides to return to Hollywood and explore his signature themes of love, passion and lost dreams in Café Society; an easygoing yet familiar comedy-drama which, although mostly watchable, lacks focus and is in need of a richer dramatic element.
Narrated by Allen himself, the story opens in 1930’s Hollywood at a pool-side party where Hollywood agent, Phil Stern (Carell), is sitting sipping drinks, looking important and commanding the attention of business associates and other admirers surrounding him. He is soon interrupted by a telephone call from his older sister, Rose (the wonderful Jeannie Berlin) who informs her brother that her youngest son, Bobby (Eisenberg playing what appears to be a younger version of Woody Allen), is headed out to Los Angeles and that Phil should help him get settled in.
After a few weeks of avoiding the initial meet, Phil soon meets with Bobby and lands him with a job at the agency where the young boy from the Bronx soon falls head-over-heels for Phil’s secretary, Vonnie (played by the refreshingly expressive Stewart).
See, although Vonnie is interested in Bobby, she can’t commit to the relationship as she’s also canoodling with his uncle, who is trying to decide whether he should leave his wife of twenty-five years or not. Learning about the twisted love-triangle, Bobby begins looking for love elsewhere while, at the same time, dreaming of his home and uncomplicated life back in NYC.
Whilst Bobby and Vonnie’s story is seemingly the centre-point of the film, Allen doesn’t spend too much time focusing on the love birds, instead whizzing the story back and forth between NY and LA, where we also get to spend some time with Bobby’s parents and his terribly clichéd gangster of a brother - played wonderfully by House of Cards’ Corey Stoll. It keeps the story moving, but the lack of focus means neither of the stories really stick.
Set against a glossy Hollywood backdrop, one thing that stands out, however, is the cinematography. With the help of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and the employment of the first-ever digital camera in a Woody Allen film, Café Society has that appropriately flashy feel to it, which successfully brings out the lavishness of its surroundings and, at the same time, ends up compensating for the writing’s occasional laziness.
The performances are solid with Eisenberg’s jittery naivety playing wonderfully against Stewart’s subtle nature and quiet beauty. It’s a shame that the rest of the picture couldn’t match their performance with Bobby’s description of life in Hollywood, “kind of half-bored, half-fascinating” serving to be the best assessment of the movie itself.
Despite the limited release, there is no doubt that Jean-Francois Richet’s Blood Father – a surprisingly pulpy action-revenge-thriller about an ex-con who is dragged into a dangerous war with a violent cartel - will have many talking. Written by Peter Craig and Andrea Berloff, Blood Father offers a lean and – feverishly mean – eighty-eight-minutes of violent brutality that’s paired with exciting action set pieces and one of the best performances we’ve seen Mel Gibson offer in a long time.
The story is centred on John Link (Gibson); an ex-con who has recently been paroled and trying to make some sort of a life for himself in a remote southwestern town. Living in a trailer park, John makes his living by working as a tattoo artist while also battling his addictions in a twelve-step program, supervised by mentor, Kirby (Macy).
Without warning, John soon receives a call from his runaway daughter, Lydia (Moriarty) who is seeking help from her estranged father in getting away from a group of Mexican gangsters, following an accidental shootout where she killed her boyfriend, Jonah (Luna), who was a member of the cartel. Asking to stay with her dad, John is soon pulled into Lydia’s dangerous world of drugs and guns, forcing him to break his parole and hit the road with his daughter whom he will do anything for to protect.
While one could point out the similarities with Taken – where a father with a list of ‘special skills’ is pulled in to save his daughter from harm – Blood Father is a little rougher around the edges and a film that actually takes its time in formulating its characters, sketching out their traits, flaws and dynamics before allowing all hell to break loose. First and foremost, this is a story about a father - a former bad man who is trying to make amends after a lifetime of bad choices – and a daughter – a troubled young woman who has fallen in the hands of a wrong crowd – reuniting once more and reconnecting their bond under the most life-threatening of circumstances.
Their relationship is engaging to watch and the performances from both actors exceed the expectations; Moriarty manages to sell her character well, while Gibson is in his element as a deadbeat ruffian whose tough-as-nails attitude is perfectly balanced with his more sensible and sensitive nature. Paced with incredible precision, the action is exciting– there’s plenty of blood and gore - while the dialogue written is smart and strong enough to carry the movie when the action stops.
The only drawback is that there’s a sense of predictability to the movie, but thanks to the superb directorial execution and Mel Gibson’s outstanding performance, you definitely won’t be disappointed with the overall end result.