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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BBC One/So Television
What is it about British talk shows that brings out the goofy in A-list stars?
When the best late-night moments have a viral life beyond the night they air, regular old interviews just won't do anymore. Jimmy Fallon, Ellen, and Jimmy Kimmel are the most creative hosts on this side of the pond; they spend their airtime getting Betty White to play beer pong and pranking Taylor Swift rather than keeping it all on the couch. But can they compete with Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross who seem to have the secret formula? Here are a few of our favorite times where celebrities cut loose on their shows.
Will Smith Brings Back The Fresh Prince
In a skit designed to be shared and shared again by the internet's army of '90s nostalgists, Smith performed a medley of musical moments from his old sitcom. Alfonso Ribero even joined him for Will and Carlton's famous "Apache" dance.
Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock Get Musical
Not that these two aren't always delightful, but throw in a Big-style giant piano and their charm hits the next level. Also, we're incredibly impressed that Sandy could pull that off in her Louboutins.
Benedict Cumberbatch Does His Best Chewie
And Harrison Ford's reaction is everything.
Drunk Golf with Justin Timberlake
The one surefire strategy for getting the most out of one's celebrity guest is simply to load him or her up with booze. Jonathan Ross challenges JT to a mini-golf game sponsored by some tequila shots and shenanigans ensue.
Ewan McGregor and Chris O'Dowd Have a Lightsaber Fight
Norton supplied his guests with professional-grade Jedi weapons and the studio turned into a Lucasfilm soundstage for a few minutes.
It's award season time, and it isn't an awards season without those little indies that could getting in on the action. Today marked the announcement of the 2013 Independent Spirit Award nominees, and many of the buzzy films from the past year made it into the race.
Topping off the nominations with five apiece are Silver Linings Playbook and Moonrise Kingdom, both of whom garnered nods for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay, among others for the actors. One actor making multiple cut-ins is Matthew McConaughey, whose work in Magic Mike and Killer Joe nabbed him nominations for Best Supporting Male and Best Male Lead, respectively.
It's not all smooth-sailing, though: the announcement of Silver Linings Playbook in the pool caused a bit of controversy, as the film's budget was reportedly over the $20 million cut-off point set by the governing body of the awards, but it seems as though the Weinsteins handled that little issue to keep it as a contender. This year's Spirit Awards are scheduled to air at 10PM on Saturday, February 23, 2013 on IFC—only one day before the Academy Awards. The full list of nominees is below.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Keep the Lights On
Silver Linings Playbook
Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)
Julia Loktev (The Loneliest Planet)
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
Ira Sachs (Keep the Lights On)
Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
BEST FIRST FEATURE
Fill the Void
Gimme the Loot
Safety Not Guaranteed
Sound of My Voice
Perks of Being a Wallflower
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Breakfast With Curtis (Laura Colella)
Middle of Nowhere (Ava DuVernay)
Mosquita y Mari (Aurora Guerrero)
Starlet (Sean Baker)
The Color Wheel (Alex Ross Perry)
Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)
Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks)
Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths)
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias (Keep the Lights On)
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Rama Burshtein (Fill the Void)
Derek Connolly (Saftey Not Guaranteed)
Nicholas Jarecki (Arbitrage)
Rashida Jones & Will McCormack (Celeste and Jesse Forever)
Jonathan Lisecki (Gayby)
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Linda Cardellini (Return)
Emayatzy Corinealdi (Middle of Nowhere)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed)
BEST MALE LEAD
Jack Black (Bernie)
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
John Hawkes (The Sessions)
Thure Lindhardt (Keep the Lights On)
Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe)
Wendell Pierce (Four)
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister’s Sister)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Brit Marling (Sound of My Voice)
Lorraine Toussaint (Middle of Nowhere)
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike)
David Oyelowo (Middle of Nowhere)
Michael Pena (End of Watch)
Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths)
Bruce Willis (Moonrise Kingdom)
Beasts of the Southern Wild
End of Watch
Valley of Saints
The Central Park Five
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
The Waiting Room
BEST FOREIGN FILM
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Rust and Bone
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
Alicia Van Couvering (Nobody Walks)
Mynette Louie (Stones in the Sun)
Derrick Tseng (Prince Avalanche)
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
David Fenster (Pincus)
Adam Leon (Gimme the Loot)
Rebecca Thomas (Electrick Children)
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel)
Only the Young (Jasonyyee Tippet and Elizabeth Mimms)
The Waiting Room (Peter Nicks)
What do you think of the nominees? Surprised by any? Disappointed by this missing? Let us know in the comments!
[Photo Credit: Joe Scarnici/WireImage]
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
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There is something particularly unnerving about demon possession. It's the idea of something you can't see or control creeping into your body and taking up residence eventually obliterating all you once were and turning you into nothing more than a sack of meat to be manipulated. Then there's also the shrouded ritual around exorcisms: the Latin chants the flesh-sizzling crucifixes and the burning Holy Water. As it turns out exorcism isn't just the domain of Catholics.
The myths and legends of the Jews aren't nearly as well known but their creepy dybbuk goes toe-to-toe with anything other world religions come up with. There are various interpretations of what a dybbuk is or where it comes from — is it a ghost a demon a soul of a sinner? — but in any case it's looking for a body to hang out in for a while. Especially according to the solemn Hasidic Jews in The Possession an innocent young person and even better a young girl.
The central idea in The Possession is that a fancy-looking wooden box bought at a garage sale was specifically created to house a dybbuk that was tormenting its previous owner. Unfortunately it caught the eye of young Emily (Natasha Calis) a sensitive artistic girl who persuades her freshly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen and Grey's Anatomy) to buy it for her. Never mind the odd carvings on it — that would be Hebrew — or how it's created without seams so it would be difficult to open or why it's an object of fascination for a young girl; Clyde is trying really hard to please his disaffected daughters and do the typical freshly divorced parent dance of trying to please them no matter the cost.
Soon enough the creepy voices calling to Emily from the box convince her to open it up; inside are even creepier personal objects that are just harbingers of what's to come for her her older sister Hannah (Madison Davenport) her mom Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and even Stephanie's annoying new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). Clyde and Stephanie squabble over things like pizza for dinner and try to convince each other and themselves that Emily's increasingly odd behavior is that of a troubled adolescent. It's not of course and eventually Clyde enlists the help of the son of a Hasidic rabbi a young man named Tzadok played by the former Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu to help them perform an exorcism on Emily.
The Possession is not going to join the ranks of The Exorcist in the horror pantheon but it does do a remarkable job of making its characters intelligent and even occasionally droll and it offers up plenty of chills despite a PG-13 rating. Perhaps it's because of that rating that The Possession is so effective; the filmmakers are forced to make the benign scary. Giant moths and flying Torahs take the place of little Reagan violently masturbating with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Gagging and binging on food is also an indicator of Emily's possession — an interesting twist given the anxieties of becoming a woman a girl Emily's age would face. There is something inside her controlling her and she knows it and she is fighting it. The most impressive part of Calis's performance is how she communicates Emily's torment with a few simple tears rolling down her face as the dybbuk's control grows. The camerawork adds to the anxiety; one particularly scary scene uses ordinary glass kitchenware to great effect.
The Possession is a short 92 minutes and it does dawdle in places. It seems as though some of the scenes were juggled around to make the PG-13 cut; the moth infestation scene would have made more sense later in the movie. Some of the problems are solved too quickly or simply and yet it also takes a while for Clyde's character to get with it. Stephanie is a fairly bland character; she makes jewelry and yells at Clyde for not being present in their marriage a lot and then there's a thing with a restraining order that's pretty silly. Emily is occasionally dressed up like your typical horror movie spooky girl with shadowed eyes an over-powdered face and dark clothes; it's much more disturbing when she just looks like an ordinary though ill young girl. The scenes in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn look oddly fake and while it's hard to think of who else could have played Tzadok an observant Hasidic Jew who is also an outsider willing to take risks the others will not Matisyahu is not a very good actor. Still the filmmakers should be commended for authenticity insofar as Matisyahu has studied and lived as a Hasidic Jew.
It would be cool if Lionsgate and Ghost House Pictures were to release the R-rated version of the movie on DVD. What the filmmakers have done within the confines of a PG-13 rating is creepy enough to make me curious to see the more adult version. The Possession is no horror superstar and its name is all too forgettable in a summer full of long-gestating horror movies quickly pushed out the door. It's entertaining enough and could even find a broader audience on DVD. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can read the Old Testament to me any time.
Top Story: Death at Spector House Not a Suicide
Suicide has been ruled out as the cause of death of B-movie actress Lana Clarkson, who was found shot at the home of music producer Phil Spector, the Associated Press reports. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department told AP Tuesday they believe the shooting is a crime and have denied reports Spector's name will be cleared soon. "No one involved in this investigation said that," Sheriff's Capt. Frank Merriman said. "My opinion is that somebody is orchestrating this to plant seeds of doubt with potential jurors." No charges have been filed against the eccentric music mogul, who was released on $1 million bail. The investigation could continue until summer because the evidence is complex and forensic tests take months to complete, Merriman told AP.
Bernie Mac's Wilmore Is Let Go
Fox has fired Bernie Mac creator and executive producer Larry Wilmore over what appears to be creative differences, Variety reports. Numerous industry sources told the trade magazine that series star Bernie Mac was asked about the decision to move on without Wilmore and did not put up any opposition, which was likely the key to Fox's final decision. Wilmore, who has won both an Emmy and a Peabody for his work on the show, is now in final negotiations to sign an overall deal with NBC.
Ross Caught Driving Unregistered Car
Police gave diva Diana Ross, 58, a $78 ticket Sunday in Greenwich, Conn., because the black Ford Taurus she was driving had an expired registration tag, AP reports. This latest vehicle incident comes after her Dec. 30 arrest for drunken driving in Tucson, Ariz.
Posh Spice Pays for Slander
Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham has agreed to pay $88,000 to settle a slander suit filed against her by a sports memorabilia shop, AP reports. She accused the shop's owners of selling a fake autographed picture of her husband, British soccer star David Beckham, when she visited the store in March 2001, which subsequently hurt business. It has since been confirmed the signed photo is authentic.
We'll Be "Watching Ellie" Again
NBC confirmed the Julia Louis-Dreyfus sitcom Watching Ellie will be returning to primetime April 15 for a six-week run, Variety reports. The network will decide after that whether they will bring the show back for a third season next fall.
Fox Wins Young-Adult Ratings Race
For the sixth week in a row, Fox has emerged as the primetime ratings champ for young adult viewers, Variety reports. With their hit second season of American Idol leading the way, Fox took in a 4.5 rating/12 share among the 18 to 49 set, according to the Nielsen Media Research numbers.
ROLE CALL: Travolta and Carrey Mess With Classics, Eastwood Heads Into Space, and Gere Puts on Dancing Shoes Again
Variety reports that John Travolta is negotiating to star in a remake of the 1950 James Stewart film Harvey, playing the lovable drunk Elwood P. Dowd, who pals around with a 6-foot invisible rabbit; meanwhile, Jim Carrey will be doing his best Danny Kaye impersonation and starring in a remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty directed by Steven Spielberg. From those blasts from the past we segue to blasting off with Clint Eastwood, who heads back into orbit after his successful Space Cowboys. Variety reports that Eastwood acquired the rights to turn the story of real-life astronaut Neil Armstrong into a feature film; he will direct and produce but will not star. Back on Earth, Richard Gere has his feet firmly on the ground--except when he's dancing, something he seems to want to do more of. According to the The Hollywood Reporter, the Chicago star will tackle ballroom dancing in Miramax's Shall We Dance?, a remake of a 1996 Japanese film about a man who takes ballroom dancing lessons to impress a beautiful young dance teacher.