Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Endless Love has awakened something in me. Not a long dormant passion for an introverted high school classmate, or a sudden desire to break into the zoo after dark. A question about movies — more accurately, about movie criticism. The same question you would ask yourself if you fell drowsy in the middle of Citizen Kane, or welled up during the emotional climax of Just Friends. The question I ask myself now, as I recount the 103 straight minutes of asphyxiating laughter that I endured during a screening of Shana Feste’s would-be romantic drama: What makes a good movie?
We assign deference to some films, disgust to others — a lucky few of us make a living this way. But what, precisely, are we reviewing? A film’s mission or its execution? The product onscreen or the experience of watching it? All factors come into play when considering whether or not a movie “works.” But on rare occasions you’ll get a film that offers no common ground in its meeting of these standards. You’ll get Endless Love, which strives for dramatic sincerity, winds up with underwritten idiocy, and provokes in its viewers an unrestrained, absurdist revelry — the kind of joy you’d otherwise be forced to seek in a third viewing of The Lego Movie. Laughter at the ill-conceived antics and befuddling dialectical patterns of our central teen couple — a Mars native Gabrielle Wilde and her gaping mouthed beau Alex Pettyfer. Elated bemusement at the younger generation’s propensity for chaotic disrobing and didactically organized dance parties. Unprecedented ecstasy at the Mafia movie intimidation tactics of an overprotective dad (Bruce Greenwood) and the brain-dead disregard of a supportive one (Robert Patrick). As a comedy, Endless Love is unstoppable.
I can only hypothesize that it was not Feste’s intention to roll us in the aisles. I have no cold proof that her resolution in paving every nook in her Georgia-set remake with another farcical stone — Wilde’s instantaneous evolution from wordless ingénue to sexually aggressive spirit walker, Patrick’s loving caution-to-the-wind attitude regarding any situation that has to do with a girl, Rhys Wakefield’s “black sheep” character forming an odd amalgamation of Pauly Shore and Charlie St. Cloud — was not one of Wolf of Wall Street-like satire, or reappropriation in the vein of Spring Breakers. Here are two movies that earned scorn from viewers who read them literally, and in turn vehement defense from those who peered through the exaltation of cocaine and firearms into the filmmakers’ ironic intentions.
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
To the latter community, one to which I subscribe, I ask: if we’re readily willing to dive deeper for Martin Scorsese and Harmony Korine, shouldn’t we grant Feste this benefit? If we’d defend the authenticity of the splendor we recognized in their movies, why am I inclined to write off the very same when present in this year’s Valentine’s Day cannonball? Why do I eagerly laud the merit in Leonardo DiCaprio directing Quaalude-charged tribal chants and relinquishing subhuman treatment upon anyone short a Y-chromosome, while instinctively shafting the invaluable merriment in Pettyfer’s goofily deliberate declaration that he likes to read into the category of happy accident?
But an even more precise question (one I was challenged to entertain by a friend and film critic far wiser than I am), and this time to the former community: does it matter? Did it matter to all those offended by gunplay and intrusive nudity that Korine set out to demonize youth culture and its omnipresent hedonism? Did considering his intentions make the endgame any less a visceral nightmare? If not, does it matter if Feste poured her soul into the machination of a timeless love story, only to produce a riotous cinematic episode that treads genre parody as expertly as anything from the golden age of the Zucker brothers? Does it matter that she didn’t intend for Wilde and Pettyfer’s sex scene to come off as super-hoke, for every mention of cancer to feel like soap opera send-up, or for Robert Patrick’s vindication of his son’s passion for menagerie trespassing to elicit the biggest laugh of a movie yet in 2014?
So long as I consider the power of cinema, I’ll never be sure if it matters. I’ll never be sure of the answers to any of these questions. But no matter where I find myself standing on this issue down the line, I had far too much fun at Endless Love — and entertained far too many questions on the nature of cinema and the way we react to it — to call it a movie that people shouldn’t see.
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Summit via Everett Collection
You can imagine that Renny Harlin, director and one quadrant of the writing team for The Legend of Hercules, began his pitch as such: We'll start with a war, because lots of these things start with wars. It feels like this was the principal maxim behind a good deal of the creative choices in this latest update of the Ancient Greek myth. There are always horse riding scenes. There are generally arena battles. There are CGI lions, when you can afford 'em. Oh, and you've got to have a romantic couple canoodling at the base of a waterfall. Weaving them all together cohesively would be a waste of time — just let the common threads take form in a remarkably shouldered Kellan Lutz and action sequences that transubstantiate abjectly to and fro slow-motion.
But pervading through Lutz's shirtless smirks and accent continuity that calls envy from Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland performance is the obtrusive lack of thought that went into this picture. A proverbial grab bag of "the basics" of the classic epic genre, The Legend of Hercules boasts familiarity over originality. So much so that the filmmakers didn't stop at Hercules mythology... they barely started with it, in fact. There's more Jesus Christ in the character than there is the Ancient Greek demigod, with no lack of Gladiator to keep things moreover relevant. But even more outrageous than the void of imagination in the construct of Hercules' world is its script — a piece so comically dim, thin, and idiotic that you will laugh. So we can't exactly say this is a totally joyless time at the movies.
Summit via Everett Collection
Surrounding Hercules, a character whose arc takes him from being a nice enough strong dude to a nice enough strong dude who kills people and finally owns up to his fate — "Okay, fine, yes, I guess I'm a god" — are a legion of characters whose makeup and motivations are instituted in their opening scenes and never change thereafter. His de facto stepdad, the teeth-baring King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), despises the boy for being a living tribute to his supernatural cuckolding; his half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is the archetypical scheming, neutered, jealous brother figure right down to the facial scar. The dialogue this family of mongoloids tosses around is stunningly brainless, ditto their character beats. Hercules can't understand how a mystical stranger knows his identity, even though he just moments ago exited a packed coliseum chanting his name. Iphicles defies villainy and menace when he threatens his betrothed Hebe (Gaia Weiss), long in love with Hercules, with the terrible fate of "accepting [him] and loving [their] children equally!" And the dad... jeez, that guy must really be proud of his teeth.
With no artistic feat successfully accomplished (or even braved, really) by this movie, we can at the very least call it inoffensive. There is nothing in The Legend of Hercules with which to take issue beyond its dismal intellect, and in a genre especially prone to regressive activity, this is a noteworthy triumph. But you might not have enough energy by the end to award The Legend of Hercules with this superlative. Either because you'll have laughed yourself into a coma at the film's idiocy, or because you'll have lost all strength trying to fend it off.
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Forget actors for once. Sunday night marked the night of awards season when we got to focus on the best musical artists of the year. That's right — it was the 55th annual Grammy Awards! And it was one hell of a show. From Adele to Mumford & Sons to Frank Ocean, the best of the best in the industry walked away with awards.
Check out the full list of winners below!
RELATED: Kim Kashkashian Wins A Grammy?!
Winners Announced Live:
1. Best Pop Solo Performance: "Set Fire To The Rain [Live]," Track from: Live At The Royal Albert Hall, Adele
2. Best Country Solo Performance: "Blown Away," Track from: Blown Away, Carrie Underwood
3. Song Of The Year: "We Are Young," Track from: Some Nights, Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost, and Nate Ruess, songwriters (Fun. Featuring Janelle Monáe)
4. Best Urban Contemporary Album: Channel Orange, Frank Ocean
5. Best Rock Performance: "Lonely Boy," Track from: El Camino, The Black Keys
6. Best Pop Vocal Album: Stronger, Kelly Clarkson
7. Best Rap/Sung Collabortion: "No Church In The Wild," Track from: Watch The Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye West Featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream
8. Best Country Album: Uncaged, Zac Brown Band
9. Best New Artist: fun.
10. Record Of The Year: "Somebody That I Used To Know," Track from: Making Mirrors, Gotye Featuring Kimbra
11. Album Of The Year: Babel, Mumford & Sons
1. Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: Gotye Featuring Kimbra, Track from: Making Mirrors
2. Best Pop Instrumental Album: Impressions, Chris Botti
3. Best Dance Recording: "Bangarang," Track from: Bangarang, Skrillrex Featuring Sirah
4. Best Dance/Electric Album: Bangarang, Skrillex
5. Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Kisses On The Bottom, Paul McCartney
6. Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance: "Love Bites (So Do I)," Track from: The Strange Case Of..., Halestorm
7. Best Rock Song: "Lonely Boy," Track from: El Camino, Dan Auerbach, Brian Burton, and Patrick Carney, songwriters (The Black Keys)
8. Best Rock Album: El Camino, The Black Keys
9. Best Alternative Music Album: Making Mirrors, Gotye
10. Best R&B Performance: "Climax," Track from: Looking 4 Myself, Usher
11. Best Traditional R&B Performance: "Love On Top," Track from: 4, Beyonce
12. Best R&B Song: "Adorn," Miguel Pimentel
13. Best R&B Album: Black Radio, Robert Glasper Experiment
14. Best Rap Performance: "N****s In Paris," Track from: Watch The Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye West
15. Best Rap Song: "N****s In Paris," Track from: Watch The Throne, Shawn Carter, Mike Dean, Chauncey Hollis, and Kanye West, songwriters (W.A. Donaldson, songwriter) (Jay-Z & Kanye West)
16. Best Rap Album: Take Care, Drake
17. Best Country Duo/Group Performance: "Pontoon," Little Big Town
18. Best Country Song: "Blown Away," Blown Away, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins, songwriters (Carrie Underwood)
19. Best New Age Album: Echoes Of Love, Omar Akram
20. Best Improvised Jazz Solo: "Hot House," Track from: Hot House, Gary Burton and Chick Corea
21. Best Jazz Vocal Album: Radio Music Society, Esperanza Spalding
22. Best Jazz Instrumental Album: Unity Band, Pat Metheny Unity Band
23. Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Dear Diz (Everyday I Think Of You), Arturo Sandoval
24. Best Latin Jazz Album: ¡Ritmo!, The Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band
25. Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance: "10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord," Track from: 10,000 Reasons, Matt Redman
26. Best Gospel Song: "Go Get It," Erica Campbell, Tina Campbell, and Warryn Campbell, songwriters (Mary Mary)
27. Best Contemporary Christian Music Song: "10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)," Track from: 10,000 Reasons, Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman, songwriters (Matt Redman)
28. Best Gospel Album: Gravity, Lecrae
29. Best Contemporary Christian Music Album: Eye On It, TobyMac
30. Best Latin Pop Album: MTV Unplugged Deluxe Edition, Juanes
31. Best Latin Album, Urban Or Alternative Album: Imaginaries, Quetzal
32. Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano): Pecados Y Milagros, Lila Downs
33. Best Tropical Latin Album: Retro, Marlow Rosado Y La Riquena
34. Best Americana Album: Slipstream, Bonnie Raitt
35. Best Bluegrass Album: Nobody Knows You, Steep Canyon Rangers
36. Best Blues Album: Locked Down, Dr. John
37. Best Folk Album: The Goat Rodeo Sessions, Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile
38. Best Regional Roots Music Album: The Band Courtbouillon, Wayne Toups, Steve Riley, and Wilson Savoy
39. Best Reggae Album: Rebirth, Jimmy Cliff
40. Best World Music Album: The Living Room Sessions Part 1, Ravi Shankar
41. Best Children's Album: Can You Canoe?, The Okee Dokee Brothers
42. Best Spoken World Album: Society's Child: My Autobiography, Janis Ian
43. Best Comedy Album: Blow Your Pants Off, Jimmy Fallon
44. Best Musical Theater Album: Once: A New Musical, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, principal soloists; Steven Epstein and Martin Lowe, producers (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, composers/lyricists) (Original Broadway Cast With Steve Kazee, Cristin Milioti, and Others)
45. Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media: Midnight In Paris, Various Artists
46. Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, composers
47. Best Song Written For Visual Media: Safe & Sound (From The Hunger Games), T Bone Burnett, Taylor Swift, John Paul White, and Joy Williams, songwriters (Taylor Swift Featuring The Civil Wars)
48. Best Instrumental Composition: "Mozart Goes Dancing," Track from: Hot House, Chick Corea
49. Best Instrumental Arrangement: "How About You," Track from: Centennial - Newly Discovered Works Of Gil Evans, Gil Evans, arranger (Gil Evans Project)
50. Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s): "City Of Roses," Track from: Radio Music Society, Thara Memory and Esperanza Spalding, arrangers (Esperanza Spalding)
51. Best Recording Package: Biophilia, Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak, art directors (Björk)
52. Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package: Woody At 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection, Fritz Klaetke, art director (Woody Guthrie)
53. Best Album Notes: Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles, Billy Vera, album notes writer (Ray Charles)
54. Best Historical Album: The Smile Sessions (Deluxe Box Set), Alan Boyd, Mark Linett, Brian Wilson, and Dennis Wolfe, compilation producers; Mark Linett, mastering engineer (The Beach Boys)
55. Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical: The Goat Rodeo Sessions, Richard King, engineer; Richard King, mastering engineer (Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile)
56. Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical: Dan Auerbach, El Camino (The Black Keys), Locked Down (Dr. John), Savage (Hacienda), Shakedown (Hacienda)
57. Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: "Promises (Skrillex & Nero Remix)," Skrillex, remixer (Nero), Joseph Ray, Skrillex, and Daniel Stephens, remixers
58. Best Surround Soung Album: Modern Cool, Jim Anderson, surround mix engineer; Darcy Proper, surround mastering engineer; Michael Friedman, surround producer (Patricia Barber)
59. Best Engineered Album, Classical: Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen, Tom Caulfield and John Newton, engineers; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Charles Bruffy and Kansas City Chorale)
60. Producer Of The Year: Blanton Alspaugh, Chamber Symphonies (Gregory Wolynec & Gateway Chamber Orchestra), Davis: Río De Sangre (Joseph Rescigno, Vale Rideout, Ava Pine, John Duykers, Kerry Walsh, Guido LeBron, The Florentine Opera Company & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra), Gjeilo: Northern Lights (Charles Bruffy & Phoenix Chorale), In Paradisum (Brian A. Schmidt & South Dakota Chorale), Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen (Charles Bruffy & Kansas City Chorale), Music For A Time Of War (Carlos Kalmar & The Oregon Symphony, Musto: The Inspector (Glen Cortese & Wolf Trap Opera Company)
61. Best Orchestral Performance: "Adams: Harmonielehre & Short Ride In A Fast Machine," Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)
62. Best Opera Recording: "Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen," James Levine and Fabio Luisi, conductors; Hans-Peter König, Jay Hunter Morris, Bryn Terfel and Deborah Voigt; Jay David Saks, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
63. Best Choral Performance: "Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen," Charles Bruffy, conductor (Matthew Gladden, Lindsey Lang, Rebecca Lloyd, Sarah Tannehill, and Pamela Williamson; Kansas City Chorale)
64. Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: "Meanwhile," Eighth Blackbird
65. Best Classical Instrumental Solo: "Kurtág & Ligeti: Music For Viola," Kim Kashkashian
66. Best Classical Vocal Solo: "Poèmes," Renée Fleming (Alan Gilbert and Seiji Ozawa; Orchestre National De France & Orchestre Philharmonique De Radio France)
67. Best Classical Compendium: "Penderecki: Fonogrammi; Horn Concerto; Partita; The Awakening Of Jacob; Anaklasis," Antoni Wit, conductor; Aleksandra Nagórko and Andrzej Sasin, producers
68. Best Contemporary Classical Composition: "Hartke, Stephen: Meanwhile - Incidental Music To Imaginary Puppet Plays," Track from: Meanwhile, Stephen Hartke, composer (Eighth Blackbird)
69. Best Short Form Music Video: "We Found Love," Rihanna Featuring Calvin Harris
70. Best Long Form Music Video: "Big Easy Express," Mumford & Sons
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]
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Green Zone is a story we’ve already heard shot in a manner we’ve already seen and starring Matt Damon in a role he’s already played. Remember those WMDs that were never found in Iraq and later exposed to be the invention of a dubious and poorly-vetted informant? Remember the misguided and hideously botched attempt at establishing democracy after the fall of Saddam and the violent prolonged insurgency that ensued? If you’ve been away from the television for the past hour and somehow managed to forget any of these details Green Zone is here to remind you.
Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller an Army weapons inspector whose frustration over repeatedly coming up empty in his search for Iraqi WMDs leads him on a quest to track down and expose the people responsible for leading him (and us) down that infamously bogus path. Though his hand-to-hand skills are a notch below Jason Bourne’s Miller’s single-mindedness moral certainty and permanent expression of square-jawed defiance — always threatening another “How do you like them apples?” rebuke — in the face of an insidious multi-level government conspiracy are essentially equivalent to those of Damon’s Bourne trilogy soulmate.
And like Bourne his most dangerous adversary isn’t found on the battlefront but rather within the government he once served so proudly. As Miller delves ever deeper into the Case of the Faulty WMD Intelligence Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) the duplicitous arrogant Defense Department bureaucrat in charge of U.S. operations in Iraq summarily relieves him of his post. (Hint: the better dressed a Green Zone character is the more sinister his ambitions.) But Miller remains undeterred and he goes rogue to locate the CIA informant “Magellan ” a formerly high-ranking Iraqi official whose supposed confirmation of Saddam’s nuclear ambitions served as the basis for U.S. invasion.
We know how the story ends. Green Zone’s pervasive overarching sense of deja vu is accentuated by director — and veteran Bourne helmer — Paul Greengrass who employs the trademark hand-held super-shakycam style which was so fresh and inventive in 2004 but now feels stale and predictable. (Admittedly my aversion to Greengrass’ approach was no doubt heightened by a previous night’s viewing of Roman Polanski’s excellent The Ghost Writer a political thriller as subtle and precise and finely tuned as Green Zone is ham-fisted and haphazard — and which also uses the phantom WMD controversy to far greater narrative effect.)
Green Zone culminates in essentially a violent footrace between Miller and the Army Special Forces as they scour a heavily-armed insurgent stronghold to find Magellan with Miller hoping to secure his potentially damning testimony before the Army can silence him for good. The climactic sequence for all I could tell was either shot in Damon’s backyard culled from Bourne trilogy deleted scenes or assembled from scattered YouTube clips. This punishingly chaotic often incoherent and ultimately exhausting approach to storytelling isn’t cinema verite; it’s dementia pugilistica.