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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Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Impersonations are always hit or miss. Actors will either nail every element of another person's character, or just get lost in the confusion of the target's attributes. On Thursday night, David Letterman pointed out a talented actor who does a great impersonation. Letterman told his guest, Al Pacino, that Kevin Spacey does "a pretty good job of" of imitating the The Godfather star.
But Pacino didn't agree with Letterman. "I don't really [think he does a good job]," he told the host. "I think it's good if people like it. You know? But, I don't see myself in his impression."
Well, Letterman wasn't going to lose the argument. He had to prove his point, and to do so, he surprised Pacino by inviting Spacey to come out on stage.
And as soon as Spacey and Pacino were done dancing, literally, Spacey kicked right into Pacino mode. "Oh shut up, Dave!" Spacey said in a deep, husky voice that sounded quite similar to Pacino's. "I worked on something just for this moment. I had to write it down." Spacey then slid down into his seat, and in the same gruff voice, spit out a few more comments, driving Letterman's point home.
"That is brilliant," Pacino said.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: CBS]
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According to director John Krokidas, his feature debut Kill Your Darlings took nearly 11 years to bring to screen. After premiering at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Friday afternoon, the slow cook appears to have only strengthened the film. If Darlings was released a decade earlier, it wouldn't have the impressive roster of Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, and Elizabeth Olsen to bring the vivid story of Allen Ginsberg and the beat poets to life. It's hard to imagine any other ensemble pulling it off.
Even after a string of other performances (including the gothic Woman in Black), the question still lingers whether Radcliffe will evolve past his lightning-scarred former character into a viable leading man. Kill Your Darlings puts the speculation to rest. Embodying the unrestrained Ginsberg in his early years, Radcliffe bears witness to the energy, chaos, love, and harsh truths that flow through the streets of '40s New York. When he's accepted by Columbia University to study poetry, he's exposed to the alternative underbelly of the city, courtesy of the smooth-talking devil on his shoulder, Lucien Carr (DeHaan). Through Carr, Ginsberg is introduced to a rebellious group of writers: the on-again-off-again lover David Kammerer (Hall), the drug connoisseur William Burroughs (Foster), and the star quarterback of the literary squad, Jack Kerouac (Huston). Together, they eventually form "The New Vision," a poetic task force whose sole mission is to destroy lesser works of rigid indecency (that is to say, Ogden Nash is in their crosshairs).
Krokidas takes full advantage of his setting, draping Kill Your Darlings in bold colors and compositions. The director knows when his scenes require a bit of swing — as Ginsberg and Carr delve deeper into the world of anti-establishment poetry, Krokidas' responds with stylish camera work and rhythmic editing. In a scene at the collective's Christopher Street jazz club hangout, Krokidas allows imagination to take hold of his realistic biopic. The effects of nitrous oxide seep in, the surrounding clientele come to a halt, and Carr and Ginsberg float around the room manipulating the frozen scene. When Ginsberg wakes up from his trip, it all makes perfect sense.
But Krokidas also knows when to let the talent do the talking. Radcliffe is a performer who can stay silent, expose the mind of a thinker through the subtlest of reactions. One moment sees the actor wound up by recreational drug use, and Radcliffe rises to the occasion by stripping down, running around a room, and eventually settling at a typewriter to bang out his first poem. DeHaan is his foil, always ready to unleash bravado; his Carr enlivens the world around him, making it easy to see why Ginsberg would have been so taken by him. If Radcliffe's performance puts skeptics to rest, DeHaan's proves he's at the top of Hollywood's young actor's pack. The duo's romantic relationship creates conflict over the course of the entire movie, eventually swelling to a burst of passion. The authenticity of the moment may surprise even the biggest diehard Harry Potter fans.
Kill Your Darlings has a rare vision behind it, and it's clear Radcliffe and DeHaan are in on the plan. The ups and downs never miss a beat, nor do they feel stricken to the form that Hollywood may normally take to bring a story of this nature to life. That feels like a cue from Ginsberg himself — as we see in the film, the poet's early days were filled with school lessons he threw to the wind (and flipped the bird to, naturally). His independent spirit runs through the veins of Darlings, a great Sundance pick that will no doubt find a home before year's end. And we'll still be talking about it then.
[Photo Credit: Benaroya Pictures]
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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]
The movie hunk donned a bright orange costume to become Lance Rock from hit U.S. show Yo Gabba Gabba!, while partner Jolie smothered her face in fake blood and streaked her hair grey.
They were accompanying three of their children - Maddox, Zahara and Shiloh - on a trip around their Hollywood neighbourhood on Saturday night (31Oct09) for the annual festivities.
And the eldest two children seemed to be channelling their mum's most famous character, Lara Croft, with superhero costumes - Maddox was clad in camouflage as G.I. Joe, while Zahara dressed as Batman.
Meanwhile in the city, Heidi Klum showed off her stunning figure in fishnet tights and thigh high boots at her annual Halloween party - just three weeks after giving birth.
The supermodel welcomed little Lou earlier this month (09Oct09), but donned a feathered bird outfit to mark her 10th ghoulish bash in Los Angeles, which was attended by a host of A-Listers including her husband Seal, Jessica Alba, Kelly Osbourne, Paris Hilton and Eliza Dushku.