Take Me Home Tonight directed by Michael Dowse is a comedy about the ‘80s but its futility is timeless: In just about any decade it would be considered generic and unfunny. Set in 1988 it stars the likable and witty Topher Grace as Matt a recent MIT grad with a crippling case of post-college career-indecision. Working as a lowly clerk at a video store he has a chance encounter with his high-school crush Tori (Teresa Palmer) who to his (and our) surprise actually displays faint interest in him. But Matt fails to pull the trigger and so he resolves to make up for his lack of cojones when he sees her later that evening at a party hosted by the preppy douchebag boyfriend (Chris Pratt) of his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris).
This sets the stage for an eventual romantic union between Matt and Tori; until then there is insecurity to overcome and wacky adventures to be had. Many of the latter stem from the increasingly unhinged behavior of Matt’s best friend Barry (Dan Fogler). The film turns on a bag of cocaine Barry finds in the glove compartment of a Mercedes stolen from the dealership that fired him earlier in the day. Cocaine is renowned for its ability to induce euphoria in even the most mundane of settings but it has arguably the opposite effect on Take Me Home Tonight. I consider Fogler to be a legitimately funny guy but he has the irritating tendency to compensate for underwritten material by wildly overacting. Throw in a bag of blow and that tendency is amplified ten-fold.
A happy standout in the film is Palmer who brings a liveliness and dignity to the stereotypical rom-com role of the Otherworldly Hottie Who Inexplicably Falls for the Stammering Schlub. (It also helps that she's the only member of the main cast who is young enough to realistically portray a recent college graduate.) She is one of the more talented young Australian exports to arrive on our shores in quite some time and has the potential to become a saucier version of fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman. That is if she finds material better than Take Me Home Tonight.
Louis Leterrier’s remake of Clash of the Titans the 1981 cult favorite that fused Greek mythology with sci-fi theatrics is a grand experiment in the ancient art of alchemy a big-budget attempt to spin fanboy nostalgia for a 30-year-old novelty into contemporary box-office gold. The main ingredients in this ambitious concoction are a potent arsenal of CGI weaponry and the star of the biggest movie ever Sam Worthington who inherits Harry Hamlin’s role as the heroic Perseus. But it’s what’s missing from the formula that ultimately dooms this remake.
Clash of the Titans redux mimics the original film’s epic ethos and preference for spectacle over all else but its storyline differs dramatically. Perseus is still the half-breed product of a one-night stand between the god Zeus and a human hottie and he still must to defeat the monstrous Kraken in order to save the lovely Princess Andromeda. Almost everything in between however has been altered — and not necessarily for the better.
The new version casts the Greek city of Argos as the primary battleground in a proxy war fought by dueling Olympian superpowers Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes). Born of a god but raised by and partial to humans Worthington’s Perseus battles not for the hand of Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) — as Hamlin’s character did — but instead for the people of Argos who stand to perish along with their princess at the hands of the dreaded Kraken. The film’s love story if it can be called that consists of the briefest of flirtations between Perseus and Io (Gemma Arterton) his self-appointed spiritual guide. (Cursed with immortality by the gods Io’s been secretly watching him all his life — which ostensibly makes her a glorified stalker.)
This detail is a small but crucial one. Strong-willed Perseus braves an obstacle course of giant scorpions gorgons and other horrors laid out for him by the wheezy fiend Hades but it’s never quite clear why he bothers with it all since what’s at stake is a princess he isn’t particularly interested in and a community of people he doesn’t really know — and who frankly don’t seem all that worth saving. His deadbeat dad up on Mount Olympus certainly isn't worth dying for nor are the battlefield compatriots he met barely a week prior. And while I’m sure that a few inviting glances from Gemma Arterton are positively delightful I wouldn’t risk being doused in flesh-eating scorpion venom for them.
This narrative oversight triggers a drain in enthusiasm that persists throughout the film. For a movie so epic in scale Clash of the Titans makes for a disappointingly bland ride. Leterrier’s CGI set pieces are at times magnificent but they’re proffered in the service of weak story filled with characters whose motivations are either unclear or unconvincing. During the film’s climax when Neeson’s Zeus utters the portentous words “Release the Kraken ” what should be an emotional high point instead feels perfunctory and anticlimactic. The only excitement it spawns comes from the knowledge that the end is mercifully imminent.
For those who love the idea of people walking around with paranormal skills Push is right on the money. Basically the big bad government strikes again -- this time in the form of a shadowy agency known as the Division. They have genetically transformed citizens into an army of psychic warriors with tag names such as “Pushers ” “Shifters” and “Sniffers ” who brutally dispose those unwilling to participate in their reindeer games. Nick Grant (Chris Evans) a second-generation telekinetic or “Mover ” is one such rebel hiding out in Hong Kong. He meets the tough-as-nails Cassie (Dakota Fanning) a 13-year-old second-generation clairvoyant or “Watcher ” also on the run and through uncontrollable circumstances reluctantly follows her on a quest to bring down the Division. Wanna know what a “Bleeder” does? It isn’t pretty. While the story weakens at points it’s saved by winning performances especially from Fanning. This is her sort-of coming out film -- moving away from the childish and into more adult fare cursin’ and gettin’ drunk in Push like a pro. This kind of teen wiseass role could have been played obnoxiously but Fanning gives it depth and heart. Her longevity as a actress is quite evident. The charmingly good-looking Evans (Fantastic Four) too makes the most of his reluctant hero a guy with a bigger chip on his shoulder than he’d like to admit. Other standout turns include Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) as The Division’s No. 1 badass a top-notch Pusher who can put any old thought in your head and Camilla Belle (10 000 B.C.) as Nick’s part-time love interest who holds the key to the whole operation -- at one point quite literally. Director Paul McGuigan showed his mettle with the tightly wound thriller Lucky Number Slevin -- and continues the trend by crafting another slick actioner. What he does best is make Hong Kong a vital and integral part of Push. Shot entirely on location the nooks and crannies of the city gives the film a very claustrophobic feel while the stark minimalistic environs enhances the sort of hopelessness of the situations playing out. One particular climactic battle on top of a glass roof is pretty cool. Any of the film’s faults lie in the script which seems to meander and feel forced at times but ultimately Push is just pure escapist fun.