Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle: Los Angeles”)
Written by: Dan Mazeau (debut) and David Leslie Johnson (“Red Riding Hood”)
When we last left our hero, half man/half god Perseus (Sam Worthington), he had saved a princess, squared off with the gods, and defeated the Kraken to wrap up 2010′s “Clash of the Titans,” the poorly-received remake of the 1981 film of the same name. While the weak script was about as deep as a Grecian urn, the spectacular action sequences drove the mythological motion picture to nearly half a billion dollars at the box office, paving the way for more adventures featuring the ass-kicking demigod in the sequel “Wrath of the Titans.”
“Wrath” picks up the story 10 years after the events of the first film. The time of the gods is drawing to a close thanks to humanity’s lack of devotion and worship, and their weakened state has made containing the imprisoned Titans a difficult task. Led by Kronos, a giant lava monster and father to Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes), the angered Titans threaten to wipe out both the gods and mankind. The world’s only hope lies in convincing Perseus, content as a father and a fisherman, to hop on the back of his Pegasus and wield his sword once again.
Even with a sparse script that seems better suited for a video game, “Wrath” manages to improve on its predecessor in the screenwriting department. That isn’t to say it’s well-written or anything, but at least the brevity of it leads to it being not quite as big a mess of mythology and melodrama this time around. Director Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle: Los Angeles”) wisely amps up the action, pausing only long enough on plot points to set up the next set piece. From a forest battle with a pair of giant Cyclopes to perilous trek through a massive labyrinth to a final battle with the aforementioned towering lava monster, “Wrath” rarely lets up the visual assault.
Worthington’s Perseus remains a hero of few words, which is probably for the best. As estranged godly brothers, “Schindler’s List” co-stars Neeson and Fiennes bask in the cheese while making the most of their expanded screen time, getting a chance to enter the battle this time instead of standing around in the heavens unleashing Krakens and whatnot. While Rosamund Pike’s Queen Andromeda (replacing “Clash’s” Alexa Davalos in the role) merely fills the generic love interest role in Perseus’ team, Toby Kebbell’s demigod Agenor brings some welcome comic relief to the quest. And an always-welcome Bill Nighy delights as daffy fallen god Hephaestus, who’s choice in a conversation partner proves that the only people who still want a goofy clockwork owl hanging out in their fantasy action movies are, indeed, crazy.
Starring: Isabelle Fuhrman, Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra (“House of Wax”)
Written by: David Leslie Johnson (debut)
Make some room Damien. There’s a new evil kid on the block and she doesn’t care that you’re the spawn of Satan. In fact, Esther, the demented adopted daughter in the thriller “Orphan,” doesn’t care for much else other than bludgeoning people to death and looking oh so sweet doing it.
Call it my one guilty pleasure of the year. It’s really surprising how entertaining “Orphan” is in all its preposterousness.
Directed by Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra, who’s first film was an inadequate remake of 1953’s “House of Wax” with Paris Hilton, “Orphan” follows the Coleman family (Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga play the parents, John and Kate) as they come to terms with the death their a child and eventually open their home to a young girl they adopt from an orphanage.
Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) impresses John and Kate from the start with her sparkling personality, winning smile, mature nature, and artistic talent. She almost seems too good to be true, so the Colemans sign the paperwork and take Esther home to live with them and their two children Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and Max (Aryana Engineer, one of the cutest little girls you’re bound to see in any movie this year).
It takes a good hour for Collet-Serra to set up the tension before unleashing Esther, which is bold of him to do since most thrillers usually jump right into the action. The waiting, however, pays off as we get a sense of who the Colemans are as a family. As they begin to suffer later, you can actually feel for them as real human characters instead of as victims of Esther’s lunacy.
In other similarly themed movies, shocking scenes are usually censored especially when the wrongdoing is at the hands of a child. In “Orphan,” however, there is nothing Collet-Serra decides to pull away from. There are extremely upsetting scenes in the film that are excessively violent. With Fuhrman behind it all, it’s more disturbing and effective.
“Orphan” is not just a kiddie slasher film. There are some genuine scares despite Collet-Serra overusing some substandard camera tricks and baiting the audience like children in a funhouse. Sure, it may slink back into clichés at times, but you could do a lot worse in the genre.