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Gemma Arterton

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Made of Stone.

After about a half hour or so of stilted, mind-numbing, make-you-want-to-claw-your-eyes-out exposition, Louis Leterrier’s interminable remake of Clash of the Titans, for some reason or another, takes a brief moment to badmouth Bubo, the metal owl from the 1981 version of the film. Well, say what you will about that goofy Harry Hamlin-Burgess Meredith-Lawrence Olivier flick and its Minervan comic-relief droid — At least it had heart.

This whiteboy-angsty retread of Titans, on the other hand, basically has no pulse whatsoever. It’s just a lumbering, CGI-ridden box office monstrosity not unlike its Cloverfield-ish Kraken, and one that could desperately use the same spark of life Zeus ostensibly once infused in mortal men. You remember that godawful tag line from the first trailer — “Titans will Clash“? Well, the FX processors notwithstanding, that’s about the level of effort put forth by this movie, as in none at all. Granted, Clash isn’t quite as awful as last month’s woeful Alice in Wonderland, but it’s definitely in the same lo-rent ballpark.

This iteration of Clash begins with a starfield and the demi-goddess Io (Gemma Arterton, late of Quantum of Solace, soon of Prince of Persia) in full expository mode, a la Virginia Madsen at the start of Dune. (Or, for that matter, Cate Blanchett in Fellowship — Leterrier explicitly bites from PJ’s Tolkien trilogy several times here — See also all the very LotR-like pans of Perseus & co. walking through Glorious Nature to wherever they’re going next.) So, anyways, this backstory is pretty standard — Zeus defeats the Titans, he, Poseidon and Hades divvy up the universe, etc. etc.

And eventually, along comes Perseus (Sam Worthington, more on him in a bit), a son of Zeus found lost at sea as a babe by a fisherman (Pete Postlethwaite, paying the mortgage). Unlike earlier iterations, this Perseus grows up a sullen, wrathful sort, and particularly after Hades (Ralph Fiennes, wasted) drowns his entire family as an afterthought to a fly-by shooting of sorts. Bent on revenge for these murders, Perseus soon enlists on a suicide mission to defeat Hade’s powerful pet, the fearsome Kraken — which, thanks to a bit of inopportune blasphemy by Cassiopeia, the queen of Argos (Polly Walker, wasted), will either be destroying the city or devouring its sensitive-soul, Peace Corps-ish princess, Andromeda (Alexa Davalos, unremarkable) in ten days time.

So this glum, grim, and altogether peeved demigod sets out with a team of soldiers — let’s just go ahead and call them the body count — to find a way to stop the Kraken, which may or may not include fending off giant scorpions, battling Calibos (Jason Flemyng), bartering with witches, and wrangling with Medusa (Natalia Vodianova). And, given the subject matter, it’s almost weird how boring all of this turns out to be. Partly because Perseus’ fighting style throughout is basically “run-in-the-other-direction-from-the-CGI-thingy.” Partly because the script…well, sucks. It’s just bad one-liners and lazy exposition all the live-long day. And partly because, aside from a pair of Asterix-and-Obelix-style hunters who tag along for the ride (Ashraf Barhom and Mouloud Achour), nobody’s having any fun whatsoever here. It’s all grimacing and cursing the Gods for this, that, or the other thing. Just deadly dull stuff.

Is this innate boringness Sam Worthington’s fault? Well…maybe. I said after the also-terrible Terminator: Salvation that Worthington “has presence, and I could see him being a A-lister if given the right material.” But after Avatar and this flick, I’m revising that statement. He’s had three bites at the apple now, and, while I suspect some female or gay readers may disagree — and making some allowances for the fact that, all three times, he probably spent a good bit of his days on set reacting to a green tennis ball — he’s really starting to come across as a charisma-free zone to me.

But, that being said, everybody here, with the possible exception of Casino Royale‘s Mads Mikkelsen, seems devoid of charisma here, even usual stalwarts like Liam Neeson and Fiennes (both phoning it in, as is brother Poseidon, Danny Huston — But, to be fair, Huston only has one line.) True, handsome/pretty stiffs like Worthington and Arterton so far seem to be shapely blanks no matter what film they’re in. But somehow or another, this movie has the power of Medusa over everyone involved: It just seems to suck the life right out of people. My advice, if it’s not too late: Don’t attempt to look this one in the eyes. By the Gods, save yourselves and turn away.

The Kraken meets Dokken.

Hey, Perseus: Cloverfield called — they want their Kraken back. The Avatar trailer bounty continues with another 300-ish trailer for Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans remake, with Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Pete Postlethwaite, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Flemyng, and Alexa Davalos. Eh, ok. They’re still angling too hard for the meathead demographic imho, but at least they lost that embarrassing “Titans will Clash! tagline from the last go-round.

The Teen Titans.

In today’s trailer bin, director Matthew Vaughn borrows a little bad reputation from Freaks & Geeks to make the case for his adaptation of Kick-Ass, with Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. (So far, so good — from all indications, Moretz’s Hit Girl will steal the show.)

Meanwhile, Sam Worthington takes on big scorpions and sundry other Kraken-like things in the very 300-ish trailer for Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans remake, also with Alexa Davalos, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston, Gemma Arterton, Pete Postlethwaite, Jason Flemyng and Mads Mikkelsen. Frankly, it sorta lost me with the lousy aggro-whiteboy rock, but ya never know. And “Titans Will Clash!“…ugh. Who were the ad wizards who came up with that one?

Vizier Quest.

Donnie Darko appears to be having more trouble with the timestream (at least as far as I can ascertain without sound) in the CGI-heavy full trailer for Mike Newell’s The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton (late of the last Bond), Alfred Molina, and Ben Kingsley. (Does Kingsley say no to projects anymore?) Eh, it looks like The Mummy meets one of the later Pirates movies, but I guess it could be fun in a turn-your-brain-off, two hours of air conditioning kind of way.

Quantum Mechanics.

Like a resolution dieter in late January, the recently rebooted Bond franchise is starting to lapse back into old habits. Marc Forster’s Quantum of Solace, which I finally caught over the Thanksgiving weekend, is probably a better-than-average entrant in the Bond oeuvre, when considered against all the Brosnan and Dalton movies of years past. As a sequel to the promising reset that was Casino Royale, tho’, Quantum feels too rote by half. Daniel Craig is still probably the best Bond to come down the pike since Connery, but the action-heavy, drama-lite Quantum doesn’t really give him enough to do, other than scowl, grimace, and dodge egregious amounts of automatic weapons fire. Meanwhile, the story — credited to too-many-cooks Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade — is both more convoluted and less fun than it needs to be. With the brief exception of Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) treading water in the morally-compromised Dubya-era CIA, Quantum mostly foregoes cloak-and-dagger spy games for 100 minutes of considerably less satisfying Stuff Blowing Up. And, however workmanlike as a run-of-the-mill, mostly nonsensical actioner, Quantum suggests the rebooted franchise may sadly be running out of new ideas sooner rather than later. Take the Bourne out of this Bond, and our man at MI6 is left with very little to hang his hat on.

Things start out promisingly enough, with Bond, maybe half an hour out from when we last saw him, evading black hats at 120mph along scenic stretches of the Italian highway system. (As per the norm, we start in media res.) Then we get the usual hyperstylized credit sequence — bare sand, beautiful women, a strange Jack White/Alicia Keys number which may be a grower — and all seems right in the Bondverse. But, then 007 almost immediately gets involved in a parkour-flavored foot race during the Palio di Siena, one not unlike the several we saw in Casino Royale, and a vague sense of deja vu starts to set in. (This is when arthouse refugee Forster also shows off an overwrought habit, later in evidence at an Austrian production of Tosca, of intercutting his occasionally-inscrutable action sequence with whatever high art or culture is taking place nearby.)

Soon, Bond is given his marching orders — go to Haiti and unearth the dastardly machinations of the elusive secret society QUANTUM, as currently orchestrated by a lithe, mercurial French “environmentalist,” Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almaric of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.) Along the way, 007 — still seeking revenge for the death of Vesper Lynd — encounters Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a lovely Bolivian secret agent also hell-bent on doling out retribution, in her case for the grisly rape and murder of her family. Can Bond evade the goons of QUANTUM and discover their master plan? Will he find a way to avenge Vesper and put his tortured soul to rest? And will these two alluring agents relinquish their respective thirsts for vengeance long enough to partake in 007’s once-favorite extra-curricular activity? (Surprisingly enough, the answer to that last question is no: I guess that might interfere with all the moping.)

Now, obviously some allowances must be made when it comes to plotting in Bond films — In fact, it was probably worse back in the day, when you just had to take the existence of a volcano lair or moon base at face value. Still, even notwithstanding some of the decisions that lead to shoehorned-in action scenes (At one point, Bond and Camille get into a plane basically just so it can get shot down), Quantum of Solace is a bit of a mess. For one, the whole B-plot — Camille versus the Bolivian despot — frankly isn’t all that interesting, and ultimately verges on the exploitative. (Is there a lazier way of fashioning a villain than making him a rapist? It reminds me of Dave Edelstein’s discussion of the dead child epidemic come Oscar time.) For another, characters show up or are created merely to add emotional beats to the story. (See: Mathis from Casino Royale (Giancarlo Gianinni), or poor Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton), who seems to exist only as a forced nod to Goldfinger and an extended comment on the danger of getting to “know” 007 — But, hey, at least Bond slept with somebody.) For yet another, the Big Bad’s ultimate objective comes across as seriously anti-climactic, and owes more to John Huston in Chinatown than the likes of Blofeld and Dr. Evil.

But the main problem with Quantum in the end is that, while a lot of 007’s old fun-loving side is AWOL here, the film itself has still reverted to the bad Bond habit of relying entirely too much on wildly improbable action sequences rather than espionage intrigue or character-driven drama. I can only watch Britain’s finest miraculously avoid so many sheets of semi-automatic gunfire before I begin to check out, and Quantum crosses that dubious threshold well before its midway point. Now, we’re not back in the land of exploding pens and invisible cars yet, thank goodness — the only snazzy technology in evidence here is the iBigBrother set-up used by MI6 to stay in touch with their operatives in the field. Still, I’m beginning to fear that the powers-that-be behind the new Bond are starting to fall back on the wrong traditions in their oeuvre. And Craig’s 007 deserves a better posting than another slew of sorry Brosnan-like sequels.

Quantum Theatrical.

What, you mean he’s gone rogue again? Fresh off Casino Royale, Daniel Craig returns as 007 in the new trailer for Marc Forster’s Quantum of Solace, and M doesn’t seem too happy about it.

James? No, Gemma.

Official word comes down that newcomer Gemma Arterton (seen at right as Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost) will be 007’s next love interest (or one of them, at least) in Bond 22, tentatively called 007 and due out this Christmas. She joins Daniel Craig (in his second Bond outing), Jeffrey Wright (returning as Felix Leiter), and Mathieu Amalric as the villain. “Arterton will play ‘Fields’ in the Marc Forster-directed movie…Details of her character were not available, but a Danjaq rep said ‘it’s a nice-sized role.’ The film will take up where 2006’s ‘Casino Royale‘ left off.

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