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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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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