MY WEEK #42: Wrath of the Titans; 21 Jump Street; Mirror Mirror

Wrath of the Titans
Jonathan Liebesman, 2012
Tsk, tsk, silly Zeus, always causing mortal troubles with his notorious hubris. A sequel to Louis Letterier's "Clash of the Titans" remake had virtually no choice but to be an improvement, not because that remake was terrible in general but because it was attempting to tell an original story within the constructs of a classic tale, clumsily negating both yarns along the way. Here we have an original idea toying within the world of the great Greek myths, and daring where none to my knowledge have dared before by making none other than Kronos, ultimate titan and father of the gods, the big bad a la the prior film's Kraken. I will not pretend "Wrath of the Titans" is especially well-written, or even competently paced, for that matter, but I will shower well-earned praise on the main event - the monsters. Like a true successor to legendary and beloved screen magician Ray Harryhausen's indelible gallery of creations, the beasts in "Wrath" hold the most importance and deliver awe-inspiringly grandiose spectacle. The chimera in particular might make "Uncle Ray" himself proud, should he give the film the time of day. As for Liebesman, who showed moderate flair with an early sequence in last year's otherwise atrocious "Battle: LA", his frantic yet controlled camerawork and penchant for powerfully crushing rigid objects in to debris creates an effective illusion, masking certain narrative convenience in action scenes and lending significant weight to what could be weightless (IE computer effects - this makes for one of the very few times I'm not lamenting the death of Dynamation). Perseus himself sees improvement both aesthetically and thematically, as he has not just hair and a more tattered appearance befitting his chosen lifestyle but he's also actually been given some dimension beyond simply looking mean. Bill Nighy shines and recalls Burgess Meredith's Ammon in a brief appearance as Hephaestus (who in this interpretation has constructed the labyrinth to be a truly divine wonder of mechanical design - it really is something to behold), and I sure can't complain about the presence of one of my favorite actresses Rosamund Pike, even if she's not given much to chew on. "Wrath of the Titans" is essentially a reboot for its characters at what really could have been a logical starting point, and works in just about every way its predecessor failed. And was that some quick aspect ratio-shaving to enhance the trick of the 3D's positive space? When the chimera's tail attacks, I mean. Maybe I was just seeing things. Was I?

Further first-time viewings:

21 Jump Street - Phil Lord & Chris Miller, 2012
What has the world of comedy come to? I thought things had become bad enough already, though rarely we do see still see glimmers of classic quality as many had recently chalked Jonah Hill's passion project up to be. Here's a newsflash - simply saying the word "dick" is not funny. Saying the word "dick" while doing violent and homophobic things to the dick in question does not render the existing lack of humor somehow funnier. This is just a vague example of how poorly conceived the honestly boring revival of this particular Stephen J. Cannell brand is. Add a meta sensibility more overt and less consistent than in any terrible "Scream" movie (read: any "Scream" movie) over a piss-poor script more concerned with sappy juvenile bromance than anything and you have one of the very worst major releases of 2012's first quarter, which is saying a lot considering "John Carter", "Act of Valor" and "This Means War" (and, presumably, "Project X", though I've managed to avoid that apparent atrocity). Ransom Everglades alums Lord and Miller's almost-too-fast-paced-to-register style that worked so surprisingly well in "Clone High" and especially "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" only makes matters worse. Stick to animation, boys.

Mirror Mirror - Tarsem Singh, 2012
AKA "Tarsem Sells Out". Wow. It really is saying a lot that I've seen not one, not two... but now three movies already this year that are worse than the so-bad-I-thought-for-sure-it-would-remain-the-worst-I'd-see-in-2012 "Act of Valor". My pessimistically hopeless predictions were still too generous. I suppose children might enjoy the anti-cinematic flick, but more in the sense that it's attention-grabbing on levels so basal only children could possibly be interested before forgetting about it and moving on to commercials for the latest "Jersey Shore"-inspired Barbie doll, Jell-O Shot Kimberly or whatever. Despite Tarsem's barely discernable efforts amidst machine-gun editing (seriously, are modern editors incapable of holding shots for more than .5 seconds?), "Mirror Mirror" feels like a cheap high school drama production dead set on tarnishing the careers of Nathan Lane and Armie Hammer while stunting that of Lily Collins and occasionally tossing in an obligatorily "hip" quip delivered by a perhaps more-repulsive-than-ever Julia Roberts, who all but entirely drops character when poking said fun at fairy tales from a contemporary perspective. Get me out of here.

Total: 3

Episodic Television (4): Louie (Bully - Night Out), Futurama (Cold Warriors - Reincarnation), The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (In Which Claims Are Made and a Journey Ensues), Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (East Meets West, Part 1)
- "Bully" marks a high point for the first season of Louie. Funny yet uncomfortable, entertaining yet challenging. Through brief segments of stand-up and almost sketch-esque vignettes, the show has created a full atmosphere around this central character we relate to on levels of general agreement over politically incorrect issues we can generally be timid to speak up on, and on much deeper psychological levels regarding topics such as shame, rejection, mortality and the insignificance of our redundant lives.
- "Futurama" continues to be that show that I'm never really all that in to, but that rarely fails to impress me nonetheless. The stylistically playful "Reincarnation" isn't a super-consistent episode, but it is referentially delightful and finds flat-out brilliant ways to depict plot points practically undoable within the show's traditional format.
- I guess I just don't get what people see in David Cross. He's not bad, he's just a combination of inconsiderate asshole and hapless idiot with comedy stylings conventional and predictable as can be, and that's not my bag. At least "Todd Margaret" gives me some overdue Sharon Horgan, who really held together her great yet short-lived show, "Pulling".
- On the complete opposite end of the qualitative spectrum, "The Next Mutation" (which despite my lifelong "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" fandom I've only just heard of) is close to the most reprehensible thing I've ever allowed to bombard my senses for 20 straight minutes.

Episodic Television Rewatches (1): Parks & Recreation (Hunting Trip - Galentine's Day; Indianapolis - I'm Leslie Knope; Citizen Knope - Campaign Ad)

Stand-Up Comedy (New!): Louis C.K.: Chewed Up
- It's been a while since I've laughed this much at a performance of one of my favorite art forms - stand-up comedy. C.K. just has a way of relating to people's darker sides that most comics surely envy. His schtick isn't too different from the usual material, but his delivery and sheer audacity when speaking the dirty truth about race, sexuality and cleaning poop out of baby vaginas make him a big hit, and perhaps one of the most important comedians since George Carlin.

Video Games (1): Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby's Adventure
- The "Extra Game" feature in "Kirby's Dream Land" is tough, boy! I've managed to reach Dedede's palace, but making it through the bosses is quite the challenge. As of this posting I'm down to just the hot air balloon guy, but fully expect to lose all my lives and have to start over multiple times.

Literature (1): Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America (Leslie Knope, 2011)
- Leslie Knope is one great character in a group of great characters from "Parks & Recreation", and perhaps her greatest, most winning quality is an undying - almost blind - passion for her hometown, blemishes and all. This passion brightly shines through the appropriately funny yet desirably earnest "The Greatest Town in America", warmly and welcomingly making one wish Pawnee were a real place so one could actually take the "24 Hours in Pawnee" tour and eat at JJ's Diner for breakfast, lunch and dinner, etcetera.

"My Week in Movies" is a Saturdaily column in which I share preferentially ranked capsule reviews for the films I view in, well, a week, along with thoughts on other forms of media I'm taking in (or masochistically subjecting myself to).

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