Wrath of the Titans

A second try at this review as WordPress somehow deleted the one I’d finished last night just as I was about to post it. Damn you WordPress.

After putting the chocolate-encrusted kids to bed we checked the cinema times and found one we could catch without too much of a rush. Hence heading out to see…

Wrath of the Titans

“Follow the Navigator.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Bad guys try to release their daddy, who will rip the universe a new one. Hero has to stop him.

See it if you like: No-brainer effects-driven fantasy fests

It annoys me how Hollywood insists on making sequels to complete messes while ignoring decent fare which is crying out for a continuation of the story. For every Conan (siring a follow-up I believe), there’s a Percy Jackson or a Vampire’s Assistant cut off in its prime. While the original version of Clash of the Titans was a standalone masterpiece, the 2010 re-working was complete crap.

Wrath is actually a little better, perhaps helped by the fact that I had low expectations. The story is simple enough – Perseus (Sam Worthington) is back and doing the dirty work of his father Zeus (Liam Neeson) again. This time, there are only a few gods left as the humans have stopped praying to them. Along with Zeus are Ares (Édgar Ramírez), Poseidon (Danny Huston) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes).

Hades hatches a plan to re-awaken their dad, Kronos, for reasons I forget but the upshot of which is that the humans will be punished by having their entire universe ripped apart. As you do if you’re a pissed-off deity who’s been shoved into captivity for a few millennia.

Helping Perseus are Agenor, the son of Poseidon (played by Toby Kebbell) and Andromeda (eye candy in the shapely form of Rosamund Pike). There’s also a wonderful turn from the ever-excellent Bill Nighy as Hephaestus, armourer to the gods.

My main problem with Clash wasn’t actually the poor acting and abysmal dialogue. It was the awful special effects which looked cartoony in places and simply didn’t work with the live-action footage into which they were embedded. They were about as realistic as Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry Mouse.

Wrath has had better luck in this area with particular credit due to the team who worked on the fire and lava effects. The major scenes at the start and end of the film are very well done with suitably huge missiles and explosions. I think even Michael Bay would nod in approval at the fireworks. Best of the monsters, in my opinion,  are the whirling conjoined nasties in the final sequence. Nice and evil and slashing about so quickly you can’t pick out any problems with them.

The plot isn’t up to much – gather three objects and combine them to form one big weapon with which to defeat the inevitable huge bad guy at the end – but it works. It’s all predictable enough, but what film isn’t these days? The characters are a decent collection, though Andromeda doesn’t add anything to the story other than a) the ability to gather an army what with being a warrior queen and b) something pretty to look at.

Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.

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Wall Street 2 / Made in Dagenham

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Two-film Saturday again. I popped over to the Cineworld in Edinburgh to chill out and forget the world for a few hours. First up on today’s list:

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

“Why don’t you start calling me Gordon?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Young upstart financier finds himself engaged in corporate corruption, and engaged to Gordon Gekko’s daughter.

Oliver Stone returns, bringing the iconic character of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) back for a second airing some 23 years after the original. Wall Street was, and still is, an iconic piece of film-making, exposing all that was wrong with the financial world at that time. This sequel attempts to do the same, focussing on events of the last couple of years.

The films kicks off with Gekko being released from prison while his estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) is shacked up with a fledgling financier, Jake Moore (charisma vacuum Shia LaBeouf). The bank Jake works for starts to crumble, his mentor and boss Louis (superbly played by Frank Langella) tops himself and Jake finds himself “teaming up” with Gekko in a bid to find out what happened to start the whole mess.

LaBeouf is the odd one out in this film as he’s capable, but just not that great. Given his past roster has included being eye candy for girls in the awful fourth Indiana Jones film, and the teen-kid from both Transformers movies it does surprise me to see him in a “serious” role. He’s OK as far as it goes, but just doesn’t really carry it off that well.

Douglas is, of course, excellent. Slimey, sleezy… and you never quite know if he’s being genuine which does lend itself well to the plot. Langella, as I mentioned, was superb – probably the best actor in the film.

It’s a tad under two hours long, but manages not to flag right the way through and the story carries on right until the very end with little “fluff” hanging off the plot. Having said that, there are few major surprises as we go through other than the very end which is – in honesty – a little weak.

Perhaps not as powerful a film a the original, and mainly as we are now as a public somewhat more informed of what happens in the financial world. After the revelation that was Gekko’s first appearance we have discovered that sharks like that aren’t just movie characters and villains in books. On the flip side, it makes things all the more believable.

The reviews I heard on the radio yesterday weren’t all that favourable, but I enjoyed it. In fact, I think I’m going to try and find a copy of the original to watch. It’s been a long time and I’d like to compare them.

Made in Dagenham

“Unskilled, my arse!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Company pays peanuts to women, they go on strike, shit hits fan, world is changed.

Based on the real events of 1968, Made in Dagenham follows the story of a couple of hundred female workers who downed tools and forced first the world’s largest motor manufacturer, and then the British government to change the law relating to sexual equality.

The film begins with the gears already in motion, the women threatening to turn off their sewing machines unless they are given a better pay grade. On their side is foreman Albert (Bob Hoskins) and he drafts Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) in as a right-hand-woman. They also allegedly have the support of the union, characterised by the slothful Monty Taylor (Kenneth Cranham).

Meetings go from bad to worse, and the women walk out causing problems further down the production line as the new “Escort” has no seats to fit into it. As the situation blows out of proportion, men are laid off, factories close and Ford execs are shipped to the UK to try and deal with both the workers and our government.

Top two cast members for me have to be Richard Schiff (Toby from TV’s The West Wing, looking surprisingly young without a beard) as one of the execs, and Miranda Richardson as then First Secretary of State  Barbara Castle. She really does bossy and shouty very well, and I confess I can’t see her without thinking of her as the Queen in Blackadder II.

The story twists and turns with both high and low moments. The women’s demands increase from “a bit more cash” to “equal pay” back in the day when women were routinely paid a fraction of the amount that men were for the same work. Council estate hardship is compared to posh house luxury as Rita befriends the wife of one of the factory bosses (played by a damn hot Rosamund Pike), giving another facet to the story as women’s domestic suffering is also highlighted.

There’s a fair bit going on here and on the whole it’s played in a lighthearted way, but it’s a fantastic story boiled down to a little over ninety minutes. How close it is to the actual events is down to the historians to tell me, but it’s a very entertaining dramatisation and I’d highly recommend it. Another victory for British cinema.

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