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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.