Stanley Tucci: Catching Fire and frequent hires. Metro Nov. 20, 2013

a4e82633f3a34017a13e93528d52d113-a4e82633f3a34017a13e935_20131115191241Is Stanley Tucci the busiest actor in Hollywood? This year alone added five movies to his IMDB page with five more in the pipeline for 2014.

This weekend in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, he plays Caesar Flickerman, the elaborately coiffured host of The Hunger Games television broadcasts. Despite being disguised with wild wigs, fake teeth and plenty of bronzer, it is unmistakably Tucci, one of the most interesting actors working today.

He made his big screen debut in the 1985 gangster comedy Prizzi’s Honor followed by several years of dues-paying stage work and movie roles like Second Dock Worker in Who’s That Girl before landing recurring spots on Miami Vice and Wiseguy.

A succession of supporting roles lead to the one-two punch that made him a name actor. Producer Steven Bochco’s television drama Murder One cast Tucci as Richard Cross, a Machiavellian multi-millionaire accused of the strangulation of a 15-year-old girl.

The following year a much different part earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination for best actor. In The Big Night he plays Secondo, owner of an Italian restaurant called Paradise. The place is slowly going broke but may get a boost from a visit by singer Louis Prima. If Prima shows up the restaurant will have a big night and be saved from bankruptcy.

It’s not only one of the greatest food movies ever made — you’ll want to go for risotto afterward — but it also features what Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers called “an unforgettable acting duet” between Tucci and Tony Shalhoub, who plays his temperamental chef brother, “that is as richly authentic as the food.”

Since then Tucci has played everything from villains — strangling a Supreme Court justice in The Pelican Brief — to a flamboyant nightclub manager in Burlesque, to the God of wine Dyonisius in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters to Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Opposite  just Meryl Streep alone he’s played everything from a gay art director in The Devil Wears Prada to Julia Child’s loving diplomat husband Paul in Julie & Julia.

In 2010 he received his first (but probably not last) Oscar nomination for his work in The Lovely Bones. He played the murderous Mr. Harvey, all twitchy movements and squeaky voice; he was Norman Bates without the overbearing mom.

“I don’t like to watch things about serial killers or kids getting hurt,” he said, “but this was something beyond that. It was an exploration of loss and hope.”


Percy-Jackson-Sea-of-Monsters-Poster1“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” is Greek mythology as written by Harry Potter. Borrowing heavily from the boy wizard’s adventures, it mixes and matches ancient stories with some more recent story elements to create a film that moves along at such a clip you won’t even realize you’re experiencing story déjà vu.

The sequel to 2010’s “The Lightening Thief” sees Percy (Logan Lerman), the half-human son of Poseidon, wracked with self-doubt about his status as a hero. Seems he is the Rodney Dangerfield of his home, Camp Half Blood, labeled a “one quest wonder” by his rival Clarisse (Leven Rambin).

When the camp is attacked, however, he learns it is his prophesy to be the salvation or the cause of the destruction of his people. He takes it upon himself with help from his teen Cyclops half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), satyr buddy Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Athena’s daughter, Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario) to travel to the Sea of Monsters (we know it as the Bermuda Triangle) and find the Golden Fleece before lightning thief Luke (Jake Abel) uses it to resurrect Cronos, a dastardly titan so evil he devoured his own children, not Kronos, the world’s largest manufacturer of gyros.

“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” will entertain your eyes with wild creatures—a mechanical “transformer” bull, a cool looking horsefish—but don’t expect anything original. It’s a competent, if forgettable movie, that borrows so heavily from the “Harry Potter” movies I kept expecting a Daniel Radcliffe cameo.

Logan Lerman, back for his second kick at the Percy can, is good in a rather thankless part but he’s overshadowed by the creatures and scene-chewing character actors like Nathan Fillion and Stanley Tucci who both look like they’re having more fun than anyone else in the movie. For Lerman’s best work check out the underrated and under seen “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (in which he co-stars with actual “Harry Potter” star Emma Watson.)

One character, a six-armed demi-god barista, sums up the whole of “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.” I like a latte as much as anyone, and respect those who work their magic on the espresso machine, but a well coordinated demi-god with six arms could probably find a better way to express his art than selling coffee. Same with the movie. With such rich source material to draw from the filmmakers should be offering up something more than a tepid rehash of things we’ve seen before.