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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Those keeping up with the continuous roll out of awards circuit nominations have, by now, come to notice a trend. Despite the wide variety of organizations offering recognition of film achievement, each year there are bound to be some mainstays: specific movies that top every venue's list.
So far, 2012's nomination championship falls in the lap of Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's beloved biopic about America's 16th president. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has revealed its nominations, cementing Lincoln as the past year's most impressive spectacle. The historical drama earns 10 nods from BAFTA, including the top honor of Best Film. In Lincoln's company are other unsurprising entries: Les Miserables and Life of Pi each take in nine nominations (both Best Film candidates as well), and Argo ropes in seven (another top honor hopeful). Check out the full list of nominees below.
LIFE OF PI
ZERO DARK THIRTY
OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
BART LAYTON (Director), DIMITRI DOGANIS (Producer) — The Imposter
DAVID MORRIS (Director), JACQUI MORRIS (Director/Producer) — McCullin
DEXTER FLETCHER (Director/Writer), DANNY KING (Writer) — Wild Bill
JAMES BOBIN (Director) — The Muppets
TINA GHARAVI (Director/Writer) — I Am Nasrine
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
RUST AND BONE
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN
WEST OF MEMPHIS
MICHAEL HANEKE — Amour
BEN AFFLECK — Argo
QUENTIN TARANTINO — Django Unchained
ANG LEE — Life of Pi
KATHRYN BIGELOW — Zero Dark Thirty
AMOUR (Writer: Michael Haneke)
DJANGO UNCHAINED (Writer: Quentin Tarantino)
THE MASTER (Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson)
MOONRISE KINGDOM (Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola)
ZERO DARK THIRTY (Writer: Mark Boal)
ARGO (Writer: Chris Terrio)
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Writers: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin)
LIFE OF PI (Writer: David Magee)
LINCOLN (Writer: Tony Kushner)
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Writer: David O. Russell)
BEN AFFLECK — Argo
BRADLEY COOPER — Silver Linings Playbook
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS — Lincoln
HUGH JACKMAN — Les Misérables
JOAQUIN PHOENIX — The Master
EMMANUELLE RIVA — Amour
HELEN MIRREN — Hitchcock
JENNIFER LAWRENCE — Silver Linings Playbook
JESSICA CHASTAIN — Zero Dark Thirty
MARION COTILLARD — Rust and Bone
ALAN ARKIN — Argo
CHRISTOPH WALTZ — Django Unchained
JAVIER BARDEM — Skyfall
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN — The Master
TOMMY LEE JONES — Lincoln
AMY ADAMS — The Master
ANNE HATHAWAY — Les Misérables
HELEN HUNT — The Sessions
JUDI DENCH — Skyfall
SALLY FIELD — Lincoln
ANNA KARENINA (Dario Marianelli)
ARGO (Alexandre Desplat)
LIFE OF PI (Mychael Danna)
LINCOLN (John Williams)
SKYFALL (Thomas Newman)
ANNA KARENINA (Seamus McGarvey)
LES MISÉRABLES (Danny Cohen)
LIFE OF PI (Claudio Miranda)
LINCOLN (Janusz Kaminski)
SKYFALL (Roger Deakins)
ARGO (William Goldenberg)
DJANGO UNCHAINED (Fred Raskin)
LIFE OF PI (Tim Squyres)
SKYFALL (Stuart Baird)
ZERO DARK THIRTY (Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg)
ANNA KARENINA (Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer)
LES MISÉRABLES (Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson)
LIFE OF PI (David Gropman, Anna Pinnock)
LINCOLN (Rick Carter, Jim Erickson)
SKYFALL (Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock)
ANNA KARENINA (Jacqueline Durran)
GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Beatrix Aruna Pasztor)
LES MISÉRABLES (Paco Delgado)
LINCOLN (Joanna Johnston)
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Colleen Atwood)
MAKE UP & HAIR
ANNA KARENINA (Ivana Primorac)
HITCHCOCK (Julie Hewett, Martin Samuel, Howard Berger)
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, Rick Findlater)
LES MISÉRABLES (Lisa Westcott)
LINCOLN (Lois Burwell, Kay Georgiou)
DJANGO UNCHAINED (Mark Ulano, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Wylie Stateman)
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (Tony Johnson, Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick, Brent Burge, Chris Ward)
LES MISÉRABLES (Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John Warhurst)
LIFE OF PI (Drew Kunin, Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton, Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill)
SKYFALL (Stuart Wilson, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers)
SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Peter Bebb, Andrew Lockley)
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White)
LIFE OF PI (Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer)
MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE (Nominees TBC)
PROMETHEUS (Richard Stammers, Charley Henley, Trevor Wood, Paul Butterworth)
HERE TO FALL
I’M FINE THANKS
THE MAKING OF LONGBIRD
THE VOORMAN PROBLEM
Click here to read about BAFTA's Rising Star Award nominations, which include Elizabeth Olsen and Juno Temple.
[Photo Credit: David James/20th Century Fox]
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'Amour' Named Best Picture By National Society of Film Critics
'Zero Dark Thirty', 'Lincoln', 'Argo', 'Looper' Among WGA Award Nominees
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.