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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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
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.
Top Story: Bob Hope Eulogized at Memorial Mass
Politicians and celebrities gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in North Hollywood near Bob Hope's Toluca Lake home yesterday to thank the late comic for his humor and decades of service to U.S. military personnel abroad. Hope died July 27 at age 100. Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney presided over the Mass, which was attended by Hope's widow, Dolores; former President Ford and his wife, Betty; former first lady Nancy Reagan, Mickey Rooney, Hal Holbrook, Raquel Welch, Marie Osmond, Phyllis Diller, Ed McMahon, Norm Crosby, retired Gen. William Westmoreland, former California Gov. Pete Wilson, and businessman Lee Iacocca, The Associated Press reports. The service began with an honor guard upholding the flags of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, representing the service men and women Hope entertained during his USO tours. The service ended with a Marine bugler playing "Taps" and a choir softly humming "Thanks for the Memory," Hope's theme song.
CIA Recruits Alias Star for Promotional Video
Alias star Jennifer Garner said she has been asked to contribute to an official CIA video promoting the government agency to be shown to university graduate students and prospective agents. "We feel that Miss Garner, both in character as agent Sydney Bristow and as herself, embodies the intelligence, enthusiasm and dedication that we're looking for," Chase Brandon, a film industry liaison for the CIA, told Reuters. "Her participation would add a human touch to the message we're trying to convey."
More Jail Time For Bobby Brown
Singer Bobby Brown, who was arrested at a suburban Atlanta restaurant while Friday while dining with wife Whitney Houston, was ordered to serve nine additional days in jail on for violating his probation from a drunken driving conviction, Reuters reports. DeKalb County Court Judge Wayne Purdom ordered Brown to serve 14 days of jail time, with credit for five days already served, and warned the singer of harsher consequences if he failed to fulfill terms of the probation. Brown, wearing the familiar orange jail uniform, apologized to the judge.
Radio Station Reprimanded for Mocking Holocaust
A Vancouver radio station was reprimanded Wednesday for running an episode of the syndicated advice show Loveline that mocked the Holocaust. It featured a call from a telephone sex operator who wanted advice on how to make her clients stay on the phone longer. Host Adam Carolla suggested she use words like "Holocaust," "Vietnam" and "cancer" to dampen her clients' zeal. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council said that while it understood the "intended humor" in the piece, Corolla exceeded any reasonable level of propriety when he responded with, "Yeah, yeah, burn those Jews. Gas 'em in the shower, baby. Yeah, yeah ... send 'em on the train to Krakow."
John Singleton Gets Walk of Fame Star
Director John Singleton, whose credits include Poetic Justice, Shaft and 2 Fast 2 Furious, received a star Tuesday on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the gangland drama Boyz N the Hood. Singleton penned the script for the film, which helped launch the acting careers of Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut, when he was a film student at the University of Southern California. "I am tripping out," Singleton said. "In 1977, when I was 9 years old, I had a date with my dad to go the Chinese Theatre to see Star Wars. This is where I learned to appreciate cinema. I want to thank my dad for that."
Sony Pushes Back Big Fish Release
Director Tim Burton 's new film Big Fish, which had originally been set for wide release Nov. 26 to take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday, is being held back by two months to give the marketing campaign more time, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sony Pictures will platform release the film in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto beginning Dec. 18 to an eventual wide release in 2,500 theaters Jan. 23. Big Fish, about a man coming to terms with his dying father, stars Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup and Jessica Lange.
Malibu Film Fest Unspools With Lou
The fourth annual Malibu Film Festival, which honors undiscovered, cutting-edge films, will open Sept. 26 with actor Brett Carr's directorial debut Lou, about a boxer with a speech impediment who can only speak without a stutter when he's fighting or impersonating the fictional Rocky Balboa. According to Variety, this year's festival will present 33 shorts, 10 documentaries and seven features, which were selected from an unprecedented pool of 3,000 international submissions. The festival closes Oct. 2.
Role Call: Sydney Pollack May Go Skate
Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack is in talks to helm Fox 2000's Shockproof Sydney Skate, based on the 1973 novel by Marijane Meaker. According to Variety, Shockproof is one of the longest gestating projects in Hollywood: It has been in development at Fox for several years, and its producer, Teri Schwartz, has held options to the book dating back to 1977. The film is a coming-of-age story about a young man who just before college falls in love with the same gorgeous model as his lesbian mother. Pollack picked up two Oscars for Out of Africa in 1985, one as pr
Hollywood.com is on the scene at the 55th Cannes Film Festival, seeing the films and sipping with the stars. Check in every day to get the latest!
Day 3: There is more than An American in Paris in France-- the Hollywood 'hood is here in droves, with the exception of Leonardo DiCaprio and his Gangs of New York, who aren't expected until Monday afternoon.
Just north of the Palais is The American Pavilion, which has been a Cannes-teen for temporary expatriates since 1989. It is a charmingly huge cabana just off the Croisette, offering shade as well as free, although occasionally shaky, Internet access.
The area on which tables are set up extends out above the sea, where American Italian chef Mario Batali serves up Mediterranean fare all day long. Everyone is welcome, including--or perhaps especially--actress Faye Dunaway. Wearing casual slacks and a purple t-shirt, she whirls about, peering over her eyeglasses and doing some serious networking (or maybe rehearsing for the role of a producer in her next project).
The baking sun had risen well past high noon when the crowds dashed to the American Pavilion to catch a glimpse of Christina Ricci, expected to pay a visit. Batali, a star in his own right thanks to his Food Network show Riviera Fantasy, had just seen her three weeks ago in his New York City restaurant Babbo, and was very excited to say hello again. "I am a strong believer in American cinema, especially their protagonists because they are so cool and talented, and it's great to see them in real life!" said the charming chef.
The crowd went berserk as the (currently) brunette Ricci sauntered in, slinging reporters a smile and peering back over her shoulder as if she was in on the best secret in the world. She had come to the fest for tonight's world premiere of her movie The Gathering. In this supernatural thriller, she plays Cassie, an American backpacker in rural England who has a horrible accident. When she encounters some sinister strangers during her recovery, she can't tell what's real and what's hallucination.
Ricci was dazzling in fire-red lipstick and '70's blue eye shadow, and looked to have done some serious dieting! In skintight jeans and a long-sleeved, black half-top, she will soon be giving Calista Flockhart a run for her money.
Director Michael Moore doesn't have that problem. In fact, he actually looks thinner on
camera! Today he ambled up the red carpet like a slow-moving bear to present his controversial tour-de-force documentary Bowling for Columbine. Raves for the film can be heard up and down the Croisette.
In just three days the energy and excitement has already built to an incredible high, with so many films, meetings, complaints about slow service, endlessly ringing cell phones, name-dropping and just too many parties every night. The noise is deafening. And fun. Everything happens at once. As the sun finally decided to call it a day, the sounds of popping corks echoed up and down the beach.
A lovely champagne and dessert reception was thrown at the Majestic Terrace overlooking the harbor by husband and wife team Ted Hartley and Dina Merrill to celebrate the grand winner of their film writing competition. Acting since the early fifties with legends like Alfred Hitchcock and Bob Hope, Dina is the daughter of stockbroker E.F. Hutton, and her mother's first husband is Glenn Close's grandfather. Ted was a regular on Peyton Place.
At the party, a glowing Melissa Joan Hart was hiding from the glare of the setting sun. "I'm just here enjoying myself," she said with a smile, before leaving with two friends. She was one of the presenters for Monaco's Laureus Humanitarian Awards, where she got to spend the day hanging out with Prince Albert and Michael Jordan.
As the reception wound down, the next shindig fired up as the band got ready. It's the hot-ticket after-party for Woody Harrelson, Alicia Silverstone and John Cleese's new movie, Scorched. They play disgruntled bank employees who unknowingly all decide to rob their bank on the same day.
…another day has stolen away along the Croisette!