Sunday, 10 October 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010); Cemetery Junction

Clash of the Titans

It’s long been accepted that many blockbusters are just fodder, success coming from an inflated marketing budget and a cast of household names rather from any inherent quality. Sometimes they are fun with a knowing wink at their disposable status. Sometimes, like with Clash of the Titans, they’re just shit.

There’s nothing here for you; the plot is rubbish (the opening narrated exposition uses pretty CGI constellations to tell the story of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades defeating the titans, so there are no titans in the film itself), the acting is mainly poor with even Mads Mikkelsen struggling to make much of his role, the action scenes are pedestrian with sword and sandal clashes less exciting than the Lord of the Ring trailers and the Kraken seemingly lifted from the Gears of War videogame, the use of 3D is laughable with only a handful of scenes making anything more than a cursory use of the extra dimension, and even these examples are thoroughly underwhelming.

A remake of the 1981 original, famous for its use of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion beasties, the CGI effects fail to convey any sense of weight to its few action scenes - for an action/spectacle blockbuster these are surprisingly few, two scenes fighting Jason Flemyng as a corrupted Calibos, one giant scorpion fight, an encounter with Medusa and the Kraken finale contribute to the film somehow feeling half finished, despite it feeling a lot longer than its 106 minute running time.
The two largest stars are Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as Zeus and Hades, and whilst you’d hardly expect career-best performances from what is obviously an easy payday, you’d be grateful for at least a little hamming in comparison to the phoned-in throwaways included. The trailer is not just a ‘best of’ compilation of moments, but somehow seems to display more drama and excitement than exists in the entire film itself - as a music video it would probably work fine. Where did Sam Worthington spring from? Co-star in the risible Terminator:Salvation and inexplicably chosen for James Cameron’s 3D baby, it’s probably unfair to judge the man by roles that give him little to do but glower, run and jump. Should you have the opportunity to see this, I’d advise fleeing instead.

Cemetery Junction

What, the 70s? Again?
There is a tired cliché that says you should write what you know, but in the case of this feature from The Office team, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, it’s maybe not so advisable when everyone else already knows.
Freddie has just got a new job as insurance salesman to one day get out of the titular small town, the embodiment of sleepy, suburban 70s England. His friend Bruce is stuck in the dead end factory that Freddie left behind and where his dad still works, and the pair hang around with their friend Snork, the fat comedy relief in a pork pie hat. We see them boozing and brawling, but as Freddie tries to extricate himself from this adolescence in a desire to “be someone”, he realises that the people in the offices with their suits and ties are just as stuck as the factory workers he left behind. Just to reinforce things he meets a girl from his childhood who turns out to be the daughter of his ruthless boss (Ralph Fiennes) and engaged to the reptilian Mike (Matthew Goode in top form), next in line for the boss’s job. She dreams of traveling the world as a photographer, he falls in love, stop me if you’ve heard it all before.
The themes of following your dreams, escaping small town banality and growing up are occasionally enlivened by flashes of Gervais/Merchant style humour, but while some seem out of place for the time period, many others jar as they sound as if they have just dropped out of the mouth of Ricky himself.
As well as the humdrum subject matter of the film itself, it’s hard to identify with the leads Christian Cooke and Tom Hughes as Freddie and Bruce due to their top-model looks which begs the question how they’ve found themselves stagnating in the home counties and bursts the bubble of their everyman situation.
There’s nothing wrong with covering old ground, but you need to bring something new to the situation be it perspective, technique or a new twist, but in the case of Cemetery Junction there is little new here, just like in the town itself. The best thing about the film is a small turn by Steve Spiers as the town’s sergeant who gives Bruce a wake up call towards the end of the film, and the way Bruce’s character relates to his own father after this.
It’s hard to recommend the film to anyone besides the die hard Gervais fans desperate to see him in the role of Freddie’s father, who’s a bit racist but it’s okay because they didn’t know better in the 70s, did they?


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