The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub) is trying to keep his small family together after losing his wife and the mother of their kids Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts) in a tragic fire that left them homeless. Out of nowhere one enigmatic Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham) wills Arthur a bizarre yet dazzlingly beautiful mansion made almost entirely of glass and filled with priceless antiques. There's not much that could go unseen behind the transparent walls except for perhaps 12 pesky ghosts of disturbed folks like onetime mental patients and a kid whose head got in the way of an arrow. It just so happens old Cyrus with the help of his psychic phantom-wrangler Rafkin (Matthew Lillard) has been summoning up a few restless spirits so he can open the Eye of Hell and take over the world or something. They just need one more spirit to finish the job.
All right who's blackmailing Oscar-winner Abraham into taking roles like this? The man should have thrown the script out sight-unseen and then fired his agent. Rah Digga yet another rapper-turned-wanna-be-actress is there to offer some sassy comic relief as the kids' nanny--she's fun in a usual sort of way. Shalhoub-ho hum. Elizabeth? Yawn. She's not even in half the movie. Lillard it can be said is about the only bright spot in this otherwise not-silly-enough not-cheesy-enough not-funny-or-scary-enough horror movie. He's got the right idea as he tries to camp it up as a borderline hysterical psychic who has guilt issues about being able to see everyone's secrets with his "gift." But worst of all is the usually great Embeth Davidtz (um Schindler's List?!) as a--get this--ghost's rights activist who thinks she's channeling Zelda Rubenstein from Poltergeist as she hisses the obvious: "This house is not a house!"
The only thing scarier than F. Murray Abraham taking a role in this movie is that it ever got made at all--then again we have the Dark Castle folks (the same ones who brought us that masterpiece remake The Haunting a few years ago) to thank. They forgot to hire a director and a scriptwriter instead putting visual effects guy Steve Beck behind the camera to show us some semi-interesting special effects (it is a ghost movie after all and you better score some points there). Unfortunately the movie is uneven makes little sense and strives for both laughs and scares but achieves neither with cornball dialog and silly stereotypes; it's wildly gory to boot. Everyone's gonna say the ultra-modern haunted house is the star of Thirteen Ghosts and with good reason. The production design in this movie is amazing and the idea of ghosts hiding behind clear walls is an intriguing if ultimately wasted concept.
Off-screen couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones may hook up on screen as well in the planned action-adventure "Smoke and Mirrors." The Hollywood Reporter says the film is a potential starring vehicle for the soon-to-be newlyweds.
Initial Entertainment Group, which bought the rights to the script by "Batman Forever" team Lee and Janet Scott Bachelor, plans to make the flick a big-budget affair, possibly shooting in France or Algeria.
Although Zeta-Jones is pregnant with Douglas' child, she's still in talks to star as the beautiful partner of 19th century French illusionist Jean Robert-Houdin. Set during the 1850s, the story has Houdin and young Collette (the potential Zeta-Jones role) traveling to Algeria on a secret mission for the French government. Their goal: to expose a religious sorcerer who advocates the overthrow of French colonials.
Kevin Brodie ("A Dog of Flanders") has signed on to direct. He'll also produce with Joel Douglas (brother of Michael).
Michael Douglas, 55, and Zeta-Jones, 30, became engaged last New Year's Eve.
'BUFFY' GOES IVY: Actress-cum-"Vampire Slayer" Sarah Michelle Gellar will put down the wooden stake and pick up the books as a philosophy professor in James Toback's semi-autobiographical "Harvard Man."
The Hollywood Reporter notes that after five years in development, the project may start shooting this spring.
Toback ("Two Girls and a Guy") will helm the film, based in part on his experiences at Harvard in the 1960s, which included an overdose on LSD. The story is said to combine philosophy, sex, and (what else?) basketball scandals. Gellar plays a teacher who has an affair with a college hoopster. That character was once considered for mega-star Leo DiCaprio.
IT'S NOT NIKE, BUT ... Spike Lee won't be hawking shoes in his next commercial. He'll be throwing his clout behind Democratic presidential nominee Bill Bradley.
Lee will star in, but not direct, an ad that will air in the Big Apple before New York's March 7 presidential primary.
Lee reportedly is concerned that black voters are blindly supporting Vice President Al Gore based on their loyalty to President Clinton.
"Sometimes you just got to take the gloves off," Lee told reporters Monday. "It's for real now. Bill will come out smoking."
Lee's frequent commercial co-star, basketball great Michael Jordan, has already appeared in a Bradley ad.
NEW RECRUIT: After sparring with Denzel Washington in "The Hurricane," Vicellous Shannon is ready to go round and round in the Marine Corps as the lead in the Steven Spielberg series, "Semper Fi." According to the Hollywood Reporter, the hour-long show from DreamWorks and NBC will debut in fall. Shannon will star as Wade Maddox, a smart and cocky new recruit.
TAKING IT TO 'THE $TREET': "Saving Private Ryan's" Adam Goldberg, about the only young Hollywood actor not in "The Boiler Room," gets his chance to swim with the sharks as the lead player in the Fox pilot, "The $treet." The drama, about a group of Wall Street yuppies, is being developed by Darren Star, creator of "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Sex and the City." Variety says the show will begin shooting in mid-March.