Tag Archives: Percy Jackson

2013 Movie Blitz: Part II

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)

Percy-Jackson-Sea-of-Monsters-Cover

 I for one thought the first film Percy Jackson & The Lighting Thief, was underrated. Berated as a Harry Potter clone, I thought it was a fairly solid action-adventure flick that differentiated itself with its Greek mythology angle. Nothing special but certainly not horrible.

Given that it was a box office success, it’s no surprise that they went on to make a sequel, based on the second novel in the Rick Riordan’s series. This time there’s no world discovery phase as Percy Jackson (Lerman Logan) is already living at CampHalf-Blood (the offspring of Greek gods).

The story focuses on this special force field that protects the camp after a girl sacrificed herself and became a huge tree (yeah, I didn’t get it either). Of course, the tree is dying and Percy and his friends need to track down the Golden Fleece from the Sea of Monsters to heal the tree. There are raging mechanical bulls and predictable prophecies and other naughty half-god kids getting in Percy’s way. Oh, and Percy discovers her has a half-brother who only has one eye (he’s a Cyclops).

It still feels derivative, but like its predecessor, Sea of Monsters offers sufficient entertainment, humor and special effects (though the effects are barely passable because they look video gamey in several places) for fans of the series. There’s plenty of running around and pretty magic-fuelled action sequences, though I have to admit I had a bit of trouble keep track of the convoluted plot and the plethora of characters.

Regardless, pretty much anything with Alexandra Daddario (who plays Annabeth, the Hermione of the series) is worth watching in my books.

3 stars out of 5

Monsters University (2013)

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It’s quite unusual for an animated sequel, or any sequel for that matter, to come 12 years after the original, but that’s what they’ve done for Monsters University, which is actually a prequel to 2001’s Monsters Inc.

I saw Monsters Inc when it came out at the cinemas but don’t recall it being particularly good, certainly not in the same league as Toy Story. Which is why it surprises me to say that Monsters University is an excellent animated film and a strong prequel that outshines its predecessor (or is that sequel?).

Set at an undisclosed number of years before Monsters Inc, Monsters University details how one-eyed green monster Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and huge dotty monster Sulley went from rivals to best pals and from students at a “scare” university to owners of the company we know they will one day run.

The film is driven by the stark contrast between our two protagonists – Mike is ambitious and determined but lacks the physical attributes to be a scarer, while the privileged Sulley has all the attributes of a wonderful scarer except he lacks motivation and desire. Naturally, the two clash heads early on, but circumstances force them to work together as they participate in the university’s annual Scare Games.

Despite my bias against animations, the bottom line is that Monsters University is very funny and is a film that can be enjoyed equally by both children and adults. The writers do a great job of taking advantage of the comedic opportunities and stereotypes offered by the university setting and display witty creativity in the monster designs and the overall concept of the Scare Games.

The voice performances are brilliant. Crystal and Goodman go without saying but I was also impressed by the great supporting cast that included the likes of Steve Buscemi, Charlie Day, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Bill Hader and Helen Mirren.

Definitely one of the better animated films I’ve seen in recent years.

3.75 stars out of 5

Run (2013)

run

Run is a gimmick movie about the growing phenomenon known as “Parkour”, which is basically free running. I could explain it, but you’re better off watching this video below.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tznXBzETFUI

In short, Parkour is insane stuff, so you can imagine that a movie about it would be pretty cool. Run’s Parkour sequences are choreographed very well, but that’s about the only strength of the movie because everything else about it, from the plot to the acting, was frighteningly bad.

The story revolves around a 17-year-old kid played by William Moseley (Peter from the Narnia series!) who is a Parkour expert on the run with his criminal father played by Adrian Pasdar (yes, the dude who flies in Heroes!). He hides his identity at his new school but still ends up making friends with a bunch of kids who are, surprise surprise, also into Parkour!

There’s some juvenile stuff, some teen romance, and eventually when the bad guys (headed by Eric Roberts, brother of Julia) catch up to them they must use their Parkour skills to escape and defeat their enemies.

I guess if you watch the film simply for the Parkour sequences and ignore the laughable acting, the cringeworthy romances and the contrived plot, then Run is arguably a fairly entertaining movie. But then again, there are so many great Parkour clips available on YouTube now that you don’t need to watch a movie to see these amazing acrobatics. That said, having not been familiar with Parkour before, I didn’t mind it too much.

2 stars out of 5

Don Jon (2013)

don jon

I have a sizable man-crush on Joseph Gordon Levitt like most heterosexual males, and so I was really looking forward to Don Jon a project written and directed by the man himself.

Gordon-Levitt plays an Italian-American stud, Jon, who loves the ladies but loves whacking off to porn even more, even when he starts dating the drop dead gorgeous Scarlett Johansson, a 10 out of 10 according to Jon’s crude rating scale.

The film is more or less a critique of the modern superficial male, who objectifies women and can’t figure out why they don’t feel physical or emotional fulfilment even when they dating a girl most men can only dream of being with. It also says something about the modern superficial female, who holds men to an impossible standard by comparing them to the perfect male characters from unrealistic rom-coms.

As cynical as that is, Don Jon does offer up some hope as Jon begins to undergo changes after meeting a mature-age classmate played by the wonderful Julianne Moore. But can he stop jerking off to porn in favour of real sex? That’s the real question.

I really wanted to like Don Jon, and there are indeed things to like about it, such as the performance of Gordon-Levitt and some witty interactions between the characters, including with his father (Tony Danza!). But as well-made and edgy as it is, it’s just not quite good enough to be great. The film is promoted as a comedy-drama, but the jokes are more “nice observation” or “I can relate to that” rather than stuff that will make you laugh out loud. And much of it is so brutally honest that it becomes extremely uncomfortable, especially if you are a guy, but my guess is that cringe is exactly what Gordon-Levitt intended.

It’s a nice little directorial debut for Gordon-Levitt that showcases the talent and potential he has as a filmmaker, but Don Jon falls short of being the memorable smash hit I hoped it would be.

3.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: I Am Number Four (2011)

No, I Am Number Four is not a sequel, nor is it the fourth film of a franchise.  It’s a semi-children/adolescent sci-fi film based on the first (and currently only) book of the new hot novel series by Pittacus Lore (pen name of Jobie Hughes and James Frey — yes, that James Frey of A Million Little Pieces infamy) that attempts to cross-appeal to the general population (in the vein of Harry Potter, Twilight, etc).

I can’t speak for the book because I’ve only had a cursory glance of it in a bookstore, but if the movie is any reflection then it can’t possibly be very good. The story feels strangely familiar: aliens destroyed by other evil aliens send 9 gifted children to Earth; the evil aliens chase and start killing the kids off, one by one. Guess which one they are up to?

However, the premise is not the issue here, because any premise has potential — it’s the characters and the development of the story that lacked punch.  Alex Pettyfer, who plays Number Four, is not a bad actor, but his character is not particularly likable or sympathetic.  As of now, the character is just not very interesting.  He needs more charisma, more heart — he needs to be more than just your typical angst-driven teenager.  Maybe we’ll get to see more of that if this film does well and they decide to continue the series.

The love interest, Sarah Hart, is cringeworthy not just because her character is a horrible cliche, but it’s also because the actress playing her, Dianna Agron, has little more in her repertoire other than a flirty smile.  Aussie Teresa Palmer, who plays Number Six, put on the absolute worst American accent I’ve ever heard for a mainstream movie.  Why can’t she just be Australian?  As for Timothy Olyphant — he’s still rather serviceable, but is it just me or was he Hitman not that long ago?  And now he’s already the greying, ageing babysitter for the protagonist?

Anyway, I Am Number Four is adequate in some respects — the action sequences and the special effects are fairly good — but it’s still a somewhat uninspiring film that is more Percy Jackson than Harry Potter (and at least Percy Jackson had that whole Greek mythology thing going for it).  The characters and the way the story unfolds is all very ‘cookie-cutter’, and I longed to see something I didn’t expect.  It didn’t happen.

I could be wrong, but right now I just can’t see this film franchise coming close to replicating the success of Harry Potter or Twilight, or even Narnia.  The second book (and potentially second film) would have to take it to a whole new level for that to be remotely possible.

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (2010)

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (also known as Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – too long for my liking) was not as bad as I expected.  That doesn’t mean it was good though.

The usual reaction to what seems like a Harry Potter rip-off is to not give it a chance, call it derivative and find ways to discredit the film.  The thought did cross my mind initially, but I went in with an open mind and a clean slate.

However, while I enjoyed the premise of the “Olympians” and the exploration of Greek mythology (I love that stuff), and the film does have some innovative moments and a bit of excitement, Percy Jackson (based on the best-selling book series by Rick Riordan) is riddled with character and plot issues.

The acting is certainly no worse than say any of the first few in the Harry Potter series or The Golden Compass or Twilight, but the three central characters (Percy, Grover and Annabeth) all lack charm.  There isn’t much to these teenagers and they are there to simply push the plot along.  I was, however, surprised to see such an all-star supporting cast (having not really heard of the book series much), which includes Catherine Keener, Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman and Rosario Dawson.

Anyway, my biggest gripe with Percy Jackson is the contrived plot.  I’m usually quite forgiving when it comes to such things, but when almost every event is skewed for a forced purpose that lacks sense or logic, it can be very irritating.  There are lots of “coincidences”; convenient and fortuitous things that occur just when the characters happen to need something.  I haven’t read the books, so I’m not sure whose fault this is, though I read somewhere that there are significant differences between the novel and the film.

Naturally, this leads to lots of plot holes.  You don’t even have to look for plot holes or inconsistencies or failures in logic – because they are absolutely everywhere.  They are so glaring that you can’t avoid them even if you wanted to.  I know this is supposed to be a fantasy, but if it’s set in the real world, I would expect there to be at least a little bit of real world logic.

Further, the tone of the film is very uneven.  There are a few half-decent (though mostly lame) jokes thrown in there, but Percy Jackson chops and changes between dead seriousness and kiddish fun, often without a transition period.  It just feels weird, and part of this may be because Percy is supposed to be younger in the books (like 12 or something), but in the movie he is, and acts, a lot older (like 16 or 17).

I probably sound harsher than I was trying to be in this review.  Percy Jackson is not totally horrible and there are enjoyable moments, but there are too many problems with it for me to give it anything more than 2.5 stars out of 5!

[PS: SPOILER ALERT – a few of the things that irked me.  One, why did everyone think Percy, who, at that stage had done absolutely nothing except be a normal teenager, stole the lightning?  There was absolutely no evidence, not even circumstantial, to suggest that he knew anything about it.  Two, how the heck did Luke manage to steal the lightning?  I assume it must not have been easy.  Three, why do those kids at the camp fight with real swords and weapons and actually get seriously hurt?  There is no way people don’t lose limbs and die from those ‘training’ exercises.  Am I the only one that thinks there is something wrong with this?]