Review- Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters


If you read this blog consistently while I have tried, and I hope succeeded, to keep content fresh and diverse. However, as I intimated in this post particularly, I’ve been far less interested in reviewing theatrical releases lately (mini-reviews don’t fall under that category). There’s a certain bit of “FIRST” to it that can be tiresome and doesn’t allow one to reflect. Moreover the more interesting hooks to me to write about lately have been pieces about the films, that aren’t reviews like I did for The Dictator, The Sitter and most recently The Lone Ranger, to name three. It’s easier to write a review at polar extremes. However, this one came about through discussing the films and found me pretty firmly split on and that compelled me to write this. I say only to this to close this introduction: I do not write from a perspective of consumer advocacy but of vocalizing my thoughts and why they are so. If you read between the lines, you can usually decipher if the film may be your cup of tea.

Without further ado, the review…

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013, 20th Century Fox)

Perhaps the best way to encapsulate my thoughts on this film would be to echo the sentiments I tweeted about it the next day and expand upon that. “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters has highlights that are higher than the first (film) & lowlights that are lower than the first (film); a mixed bag.” I admit that I’m a fairly positive person, or I try to be. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, I just didn’t as much as I could have. A higher degree of satisfaction was within reach but there were frustrations and eye-rolling moments to be had.

Due to viewing commitments with different groups of friends I saw the first installment quite a few times and after just one viewing this one already felt more memorable than the initial foray. I don’t recall any really bad failings in the film prior like this one had; yet there were some things that really worked much better than before. Having said that, it’s an uphill struggle to get past all the encumbrances.

Many of the issues stem from the writing: the dialogue is frequently where there are misses. Many attempted jokes are lame but don’t land. There are some good ones. Delivery plays a role. Stanley Tucci has impeccable timing and makes most of his material work, Nathan Fillion’s brief appearance is one of the highlights, Lerman has one great line, which was given the benefitted of my anticipating.

However, these writing concerns are not just limited to the attempts at levity, but also with building character. A lot of the scripting problems lie in characterization of Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Clarisse (Leven Rambin), each has a character flaw we know they’ll work through but each spends half the film repetitiously re-enforcing their one-dimensional attitude regarding their prejudice to the point of cartoonishness.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013, 20th Century Fox)

Another odd aspect of the series made itself evident first in the beginning and crystallized as the film moved on: There is a mystical cab that takes the characters part of the way on their journey. The three “drivers” have one eye among them them and drive recklessly and the cab can split; a clear homage to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both the book and the film pre-date this book/film pair. What it underscores is that: while both this and the Potter series deal with subcultures of superhuman beings with the fate of the world in their hands, unbeknownst to mere mortals, there’s an intangible lack of epicness that permeates this world. It’s smart and creative how the mundane hides these things, but it never gets awe-inspiring when the curtain is pulled back. The divested way this series is approaching its subject matter, fronting action first, forsaking character depth and internalized; conflict is undermining it no matter how high the stakes get.

Which brings me to the The CG, which is again hit-or-miss. Overall, it’s likely better than before but while some of the designs are great, but the work isn’t the best, which is unfortunate because that being improved would go some of the way to creating the kind of impact that is being sought here.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013, 20th Century Fox)

Logan Lerman is someone who I’ve twice nominated as Best Actor at the BAMs, in 2009 and 2012. Yet, this series gives him hardly anything to sink his teeth into. He has the one-liner moment and the compulsory scene where he can be emotional but not much in between. The stuntwork in terms of choreography and execution is Grade-A stuff and he had a small part in that, but most of those kudos go to that unit.

I’m not a staunchly anti-voice-over person. However, another misstep was the voice-over at the very end which explained the implications of what just happened and blew the doors wide open for the next installment. Had there not been that voice over and the film left off at the last line of dialogue the ending would’ve been awesome. Yes, awesome. As it stands, it wasn’t.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013, 20th Century Fox)

There are surprises to be had and when things stop needing set-up the film really clicks, pacing is never an issue. The introduction of Tyson (Douglas Smith) is a great addition in terms of character and the performance by Smith. While Freudenthal does fine here anew as he did with Hotel for Dogs and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the series is sitting in a good place at the end that makes you hope that story and forthcoming director can really ratchet up the franchise to a newer, higher level.

Owing to that fact, I marginally give it a…


Bad Movies I Love (Part One of Four)

This is yet another post that has been inspired by Bob Freelander and his wonderful blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Check it out, if you haven’t already.

I’ve ruminated on this list long enough I believe. In the spirit of my recent post about lists not really being finished, I’ll just go with what I have at my disposal currently and spitball it. For the mutual convenience of myself and whomever may read this, I will split the list into four posts.

Now, I did, as most who have compiled this list recently, have to examine what makes a movie both bad and one I can enjoy because of that. There were a few different directions I could’ve gone with this list. I could’ve picked some films universally considered to be bad that I like and I don’t care who knows it (A few of those can be found here). I could’ve picked the rare film that’s so bad that it’s good, which in my mind are few and far between, and I won’t argue if you believe there’s no such thing.

What I decided to do instead was to pick movies that I find to be bad, however, that I still enjoy certain things about them (badness included), and in many cases I have given them more than one viewing due to their uniquely awesome awfulness.

Now, without much further ado, my selections:

Troll 2 (1990)

To put it simply, Troll 2 was the first movie that ever struck me as being so bad that I had to have it. That and its all out ridiculousness are what really prompted me to acquire it after I randomly saw it on TV. Little did I know at the time that I was not alone in my ‘enjoyment’ of it. Only when I read online about Best Worst Movie‘s impending release did I learn about its cult status. For that alone, it belongs here because that doc proves there’s something unique about bad movies as opposed to other artforms, and the fact that Stephenson embraced the phenomenon and spun it into something quite special makes it even better.

This Island Earth (1955)

The story I have with this movie is a bit similar to the one above; I only came to know This Island Earth through Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. Later on, I learned that it was seen by some as a bit of a controversial choice as it does have a legion of admirers, and I started noticing it popping up in many films like E.T. and Explorers.

However, when you’ve seen something enough (and sometimes it doesn’t have to be that much) it’s easy enough to separate how bad it is from how bad MST3K is making it look. The film is quite silly, it’s characters range from transparent to dimensionless, the dialogue ranges from trite to awkward and it’s more unintentionally funny than anything else.

When thinking upon it, I can see the attraction to some, but it’s no Forbidden Planet or anything of that ilk in my book. This is a movie I’d find hilarious without MST3K’s help. However, the dialogue, the characters, the pauses and the plot all serve up so many softballs that the guys really hit it out of the park early and often. It is almost as if the movie was made to be lampooned by them. In fact, a friend of mine unfamiliar with both this film and the MST3K format, thought it was!

Essentially, it’s the kind of bad movie you could never, ever hate, but I do find it bad and hilarious. “Not even a moth equipped with a lighting bug could fly through that!” says Joe about the fog. Hilarious indeed.

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

This entry is one of quite a bit of distinction; when I was writing a paper on Stephen King in a horror/sci-fi class I made this film the fulcrum because not only is it the only feature film King ever directed, but it’s also based on one of his short stories, “Trucks.”

Partially due to the paper, I’ve seen this film quite a few times. Try as I might to like it, and though I can find good in it, it’s a film where I have to agree with his own assessment of it; it’s not good. However, it’s the kind of not good worthy of repeat viewings simply due to some of the factors involved: His direction, an on camera appearance by Yeardley Smith (aka The voice of Lisa Simpson), Emilio Esteves’s awesomeness, the AC/DC score, the vending machine kill, Holter Graham, Pat Hingle, Stephen King’s almost Creepshow-over-the-top cameo, and some of the humor.

By this point, I’ve listed so much stuff that you’d wonder what makes it bad? Well, the story just doesn’t work, it’s not one of his better short stories to start with and the film ends up being too scattered to be as effective as it could be. For a more in-depth explication, I will be posting the aforementioned paper in a serialized format in September.

Santa’s Slay (2005)

Here’s one I did a 61 Days of Halloween post on. This movie is essentially what this list is about for the most part; if you’re going to go down, go down with guns blazing. You’d think that a film that featured wrestler-turned-actor Goldberg as Santa would have that as its weirdest component, but that’s not nearly the oddest thing about this film. This film is essentially about how Santa’s homicidal maniac tendencies have been thwarted by the fact that he lost a game of something akin to curling 1000 years ago. The casting is odd, but at times inspired and features a good turn by Douglas Smith, and it is trying to be funny often and succeeds. Therefore, it’s one of the better bad movies on this list.

Tourist Trap (1979)

Another way of sneaking on to the list aside from general watchability, some originality and being funny is by having one truly standout scene. Tourist Trap after a while just doesn’t cut it for me, it really doesn’t. However, I will always recall the plaster death scene. It’s the kind of thing that can redeem the decision to watch the movie in its entirety. The rest of it is either been there done that or not really that well executed, but this one idea, is sure to get under almost anyone’s skin and is truly well done.

The next five will be up tomorrow!