DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on Sam Worthington’s weird “Wrath of the Titans” promotional strategy: Trashing “Clash of the Titans”

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When I’m not reviewing films or writing about movies, I’m covering music, which sometimes means interviewing bands when they’re in the studio working on their forthcoming album. It’s a given that if you ask a musician how his new record is, he’ll tell you it’s the best thing he’s even done. (What’s he supposed to say? “Eh, don’t bother buying it; my first album was way better” probably wouldn’t go over so well.) But in my experience, it’s pretty rare to hear an artist extol the virtues of his new album by badmouthing his previous record — unless that one was a commercial flop. In that case, however, the musician will do anything to distance himself from his past failure by swearing that he’s back to making songs you’ll want to hear.

Weirdly, this doesn’t happen with movies — at least not recently. And I don’t understand why.

I was thinking about this because of “Wrath of the Titans,” which opens on Friday. It’s the sequel to the 2010 remake of “Clash of the Titans,” a movie that wasn’t very good but made a lot of money — almost $500 million worldwide. And yet its star, Sam Worthington, has been talking smack about “Clash” for months now, promising that “Wrath” will be much, much better. Is that a good idea?

As far back as December 2010, Worthington has been letting people know that he agrees with all of the negative reviews for “Clash” and that he wouldn’t let “Wrath” be as bad:

“I think the first one, we kind of let down some people. And yeah, I totally agree. The only point of doing a sequel is either the audience demands it or you believe you can better the first one. What we’re setting out to do with this one — the writers and the director and myself — is improve. I think I can act f***ing better, to be honest … Just take all the notes from people that I have been reading about on the ‘net and give them a movie they f***ing want.”

And in case you thought he had changed his tune since, you’d be mistaken. In January of this year, he was still belittling his “bland performance,” adding “I don’t think that if I was paying 16 bucks, I would have booed me. I would have gone, ‘you’re boring, Worthington, move on.’”

While it’s nice to hear a star express his true feelings about one of his films, this tendency strikes me as rather goofy. Nonetheless, Worthington’s mea culpa has been part of a recent wave of public apologies where filmmakers, stars and studio heads denigrate their own product. Last year, it seemed like you couldn’t watch one interview for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” without Shia LaBeouf or director Michael Bay telling you that “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” was terrible but that this new sequel was going to be an improvement. Or there was Universal president and CEO Ron Meyer, who admitted that his studio puts out “a lot of s***ty movies.” At least in the case of Meyer, as I noted at the time, part of his disappointment seemed tied to those films’ weak commercial performance. But “Revenge of the Fallen” brought in almost $840 million worldwide. If Bay was trying to make art films like “The Tree of Life,” then hearing about the creative shortfalls of one of his movies might be interesting. But he’s supposed to put butts in seats, and he did just that. Why trash his own previous blockbuster to pump up his new one?

Same thing goes for Worthington. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of his negative reactions to “Clash” — which he tends to blame on his own performance — I can’t help but feel a little cynical when an action star promoting a big tentpole movie talks about the need to really explore a character in the sequel so that there’s more resonance. I don’t mean to be condescending to Worthington, but he knows he’s making “Wrath of the Titans,” right? Sure, it has Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike and other fine actors … but, c’mon, they’re making a popcorn flick. It’s incredibly rare for such films to be truly stunning works of art — Christopher Nolan’s superb Batman movies are the exception, not the rule — and so I’m not sure if knowing that Worthington considers “Wrath” to be a superior, more dramatic film than “Clash” makes all that much difference in the end. These movies are designed to make money, pure and simple. Anything that gets in the way of that is a problem, not whether the character of Perseus has been more fully developed.

I should probably mention that I haven’t seen “Wrath of the Titans” yet, so I don’t know if it’s a masterpiece or a big hunk of junk. And I’ll admit that Worthington’s comments give me hope that it will indeed be better than the first film. But I’ve been burned before. For all of Bay’s and LaBeouf’s insistence that “Dark of the Moon” would be better than “Revenge of the Fallen,” both flicks seemed about the same, unfortunately. And I’m sure it must be annoying for someone like Worthington, who has done more substantial acting in indie dramas like “The Debt” and “Texas Killing Fields,” to feel that he’s not taken seriously just because he’s mostly known for big action flicks like “Clash,” “Avatar” and “Terminator Salvation.” But I’m not sure if acting as if “Wrath of the Titans” will be the next “Hamlet” is necessarily the best way of going about correcting that impression.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
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Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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