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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.