Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
This 3D sequel of the not-entirely-awful Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, directed by Thor Freudenthal, tries to combine Clash of the Titans with the Harry Potter franchise, Transformers and X-Men. It is a strange and almost entirely unsatisfactory combination. Along with its unmemorable cast, led by the unprepossessing Logan Lerman, it fails entirely to capture the audience’s imagination. Percy is a demigod, the son of Neptune, lord of the oceans, and he lives at Camp Half-Blood, a haven for a bunch of adolescents who are actually characters out of Greek mythology. The camp comes under threat from the forces of evil and only by finding the Golden Fleece in the Sea of Monsters can Percy save himself and his friends. The mishmash of mythology and teen movie dynamics is pretty weird, and there is none of the chemistry of the Potter films to lift the material above its labored posturing.
Schlock home-invasion movie with aspirations to social satire. Directed by James DeMonaco and starring Ethan Hawke, the story is set in a futuristic America which has reduced crime to almost nothing due to the institution of “the purge” of the title. One night a year all crime becomes legal, and it is this release valve that has society living peacefully all the rest of the year. The actual setup is of a well-to-do family settling down for the night, all snug behind sophisticated defenses, only for something to go terribly wrong when their daughter lets a target of a murderous syndicate into the house. The few interesting ideas proposed in the concept of The Purge quickly get left behind as the director settles in for the usual brutal close quarters combat and stock shocks of a genre thriller.
Currently, the animation Turbo is on the screens, and Cars one and two are both available on DVD. Planes is more of the same inspirational cuteness. You can pretty much guess the story if you have seen any of the above. Dusty, a crop-dusting plane, dreams of competing in a famous aerial race, but suffers from a fear of heights. With the help of his friends he manages to make his dream come true. Planes hasn’t the star power of Turbo, and makes do with a mostly second-tier voice cast, who do a perfectly adequate job in this tried-and-tested formula, but the jokes, accents and attitudes are all a bit shop soiled. Summer vacation fodder.
The Romanian New Wave has carved out a reputation for itself on the arthouse circuit and Child’s Pose is a sure-footed drama by Calin Peter Netzer and starring actress Luminita Gheorghiu, a powerful screen presence in her own right. It is a tragi-comic portrait of a domineering mother who sees a chance to regain control over her adult son when he faces manslaughter charges for reckless driving. Although the plot arc is a little too pat, the tight script and solid acting make it easy to ignore the too easy progression, and Netzer’s ability to shift between melodrama and comedy gives the family portrait a hint of absurdity, making it much more than the grim portrayal of dysfunctional family situations so much beloved of arthouse cinema.
Silent films seem to be making a comeback as Hollywood leads the talkies to the brink of self-destruction. First there was the enormous success of Michel Hazanavicius The Artist, and now, from Spain comes Blancanieves, a reworking of the story of Snow White set in 1920s Seville and centered on the character of a female bullfighter. Shot in black and white and with a score of entrancing flamenco music, Blancanieves delivers some entrancing images. Directed by Pablo Berger, the film has already proved a massive hit on the festival circuit, and proves, if proof were needed, that filmmaking with heart can be more powerful than all the bells and whistles provided by the big studios.