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PERCY JACKSON & THE LIGHTNING THIEF

SYNOPSIS:
Teenager Percy (Logan Lerman), lives in New York with his mother Sally (Catherine Keener) and the deadbeat Gabe Ugliano (Joe Pentoliano), unaware that he is a demi-god - the son of his mother and Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). He finds out the hard way, when Zeus (Sean Bean) suspects him of stealing his lightning bolt, the most powerful weapon in the universe. To prove his innocence, avoid a devastating war among the gods - and save his mother from Hades (Steve Coogan) the god of the deathly underworld - Percy embarks on a wild odyssey. He is accompanied by his junior demi-god protector Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) daughter of Athena (Melina Kanakaredes). They confront fierce and fantastic enemies, not least the snake-headed Medusa (Uma Thurman) in their quest to find the stolen lightning bolt and return it to Zeus at Mount Olympus - now floating 600 stories above New York's Empire State Building.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The young protagonists of Rick Riordan's novel have been upgraded from pre-teens to early teens, but this does no damage to the fantasy adventure that fuses Greek mythology to contemporary American places and values. Anyone around 15 (give or take a couple of years) will thrill to the visual spectacle made possible by today's technology and the writer's imagination as the former executes the ideas of the latter. It's an adventure made in the heavens of the Greek gods, those ancient deities whose dalliances with humans created the demi gods. No more of that, please, Zeus decreed, but the power struggle between the mightiest gods continues ...

Enter Percy, played with teenage charisma by the increasingly acclaimed Logan Lerman; watch out for his superb appearance as the young George Hamilton in My One And Only, in Australian cinemas from March 11, 2010. When we meet him he's just another kid living with his mum Sally (Catherine Keener) and aptly-named stepfather Gabe Ugliano (Joe Pantoliano), missing his absent dad. It comes as a shock for him to learn that his dad is Poseidon, the mythical god of water, which explains his useful superhuman water-driven powers. But when he's accused of stealing the lightning bolt with which Zeus (Sean Bean) rules the world [rather careless of old Zeus, when you come to think of it], Percy (short for the Greek, Perseus), gets a jolt. More jolts are coming as he and the young goat, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the beautiful demi-god he meets at training camp, set off on their other-world adventure.

The spectacular training camp is run by the centaur, Chiron (Pierce Brosnan), who doubles in his human form as the classics master at Percy's school - so he can keep an eye on the unwitting young lad before his real identity is discovered.

It's a rich film, filled with detail, but never buried by it, and it works both as a primer for Greek mythology and a vibrant fantasy. There are parent-child references, from a scalding for gods who abandon their children for life in Olympus land, to mothers who sacrifice all for their children.

Talking points include Medusa (Uma Thurman in a wonderful high camp turn) who reveals her snake-filled head, in one of the film's masterstrokes of visual effects; and the beasts of the gods, some breathing fire, others bearing many deadly heads.

Also memorable is Steve Coogan's decadent Hades, dressed in distressed Mick Jagger wear. And don't leave before the end credits ...

Review by Louise Keller:
Uma Thurman as Medusa, the gorgon with a coiffure of writhing snakes and stone-inducing hypnotic gaze is one of the highlights of this bewitching fantasy that juxtaposes Greek Mythology with contemporary American culture. It's a wonderful juxtaposition in which Rick Riordan, author of the best selling Percy Jackson books, has created a world of demigods, scattered inconspicuously among us - a little like the aliens from Men in Black. It's a coming of age story, a family adventure and a road movie all rolled into one thrilling fantasy package. Good storytelling, impressive visuals and an appealing hero in Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson whose only clue to his heritage as son of Poseidon, God of the Sea, lies in his ability to think underwater.

It is during a school excursion to an exhibition of New Greek and Roman Galleries that Percy's life changes forever. He finds himself in a new world at a Half Mortal Camp with a centaur teacher (Pierce Brosnan), a half-goat protector Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and the tantalising Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of the Goddess of Wisdom. The stakes are high when Percy and friends set off on a road trip in search of three luminous blue pearls, armed with a pen that becomes a sword, an expandable shield and sneakers with wings. Not only must he save his mother (Catherine Keener), he must sort out the matter of the missing lightening bolt as well. Plus, there is that small matter of saving the world.

There is great variety in the various destinations: from a fire breathing multi-headed dragon in Nashville's Parthenon and an amusing stop in Las Vegas, where the seduction of the complimentary Lotus Flower signature dish reinforces the Casino's motto 'You will never want to leave'. The production design of Hades' lair (Steve Coogan is wonderfully hellish as Hades) with its cave of skulls and candles is splendid and I love the line Rosario Dawson's Persephone retorts when he threatens her: 'What will you do? I'm already in hell'. After a spectacular watery climactic scene, the ultimate destination is Olympus, where Sean Bean's fiery Zeus Father of the Gods reigns supreme and there is also time to smooth over the father son relationship. Director Christopher Columbus has made a helluva entertaining film; chances are it is the first of a new franchise with Logan Lerman, whose performance in (soon to be released) My One and Only is another calling card to his soon-to-be star status.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

PERCY JACKSON & THE LIGHTNING THIEF (PG)
(Canada/US, 2010)

CAST: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Sean Bean, Uma Thurman, Pierce Bosnan, Kevin McKidd, Ray Winstone, Rosaria Dawson, Catherine Keener, Steve Coogan, Jake Abel, Serinda Swan, Joe Pantoliano, Melina Karakaredes

PRODUCER: Michael Barnathan, Mark Morgan, Guy Oseary, Mark Radcliffe, Karen Rosenfelt

DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus

SCRIPT: Craif Titley (novel by Rick Riordan)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen Goldblatt

EDITOR: Peter Horness

MUSIC: Christoph Beck

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Howard Cummings

RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 11, 2010







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