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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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]
Tomorrow, American audiences will be reunited with one of their favorite movie duos of recent years: Harold Lee and Kumar Patel, returning to theaters for their third film installment, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas. Although we'll be reunited with plenty of characters from the first two films, we'll also be meeting a few new ones, including Danny Trejo as Harold's very intimidating father-in-law, Mr. Perez. This got us thinking about a few other not-so-preferable in-laws from movies past: the manipulative, the violent, the absolutely no-holds-barred insane. We've compiled a list of a few of the most memorable in-laws we're all glad we don't have in our families.
Monster-in-Law: Charlotte Cantilini vs. Viola Fields
Fathers may look intimidating from a physical point of view, but it’s nothing compared to what the mothers can mentally bring to the table.
Charlotte has finally met the man of her dreams and is on her way to pure wedding bliss—until her fiancée’s mother tries to get in the way. Jane Fonda does an incredible job of portraying any wife’s worst nightmare: the controlling mother-in-law. Not wanting to be replaced as the number one woman in her son’s heart, Fonda’s character does everything in her power (from mind games to guilt trips) to stop the marriage from happening. It’s an in-law nightmare to the fullest extent, but then again no one ever said marriage was going to be easy, right? Future brides beware—there’s nothing more powerful than a mother’s pull over her son.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Ian Miller vs. The Entire Family
This movie focuses on a different kind of intimidation entirely in that it’s based off of sheer volume. While Toula is trying to come to terms with her heritage and cultural identity, her non-Greek fiancée, Ian, struggles to gain acceptance from her family…and I mean her entire family.
The title doesn’t lie, this family is huge, meaning there’s just so many of them it’s hard to keep them all straight. They’re loud, they’re opinionated, and they’re none too thrilled that Toula is going against tradition and marrying a man who isn’t Greek. Have you ever tried to convince a traditional family that one of their traditions isn’t that important? Not an easy feat, but if Ian ever wants to truly be considered a member of the family he needs to find a way to worm himself into their hearts and dinner tables (which are crowded enough to begin with). No pressure or anything. As the saying goes, you’re not marrying just one person – you’re marrying the entire family.
Armageddon: A.J. Frost vs. Harry Stamper
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Bruce Willis’ character walks around an oil rig, shooting at Ben Affleck’s character after finding out he’s been sleeping with his daughter. Talk about intimidation!
Bruce Willis himself already give
s off a “don’t mess with me” vibe, so adding a gun into the mix only further increases the fear factor. Now technically at this point these two characters aren’t related quite yet, but the father-in-law/son-in-law dynamic remains constant between these two characters throughout the entire duration of the film. It’s the usual dilemma many fathers eventually face: nobody is good enough to marry their little girl. And since both men are stubborn and natural born leaders, talking becomes a rather difficult task for the two of them (yelling doesn’t count). Granted, their relationship gets a little too extreme to be entirely believable (hopefully no guy has had their father-in-law use him for target practice), but the protective fatherly instincts are both understandable and relatable—just maybe not gun worthy.
Son-in-Law: Pauly Shore vs. the Entire Midwest
When Pauly Shore’s Crawl (that’s his name, not some kind of Bay Area rave dance) ventures to the rural Midwestern hometown of his college girlfriend, Rebecca Warner, he is not exactly the most welcome newcomer to the farmlands. Crawl is rude, idiotic, sex-starved, infantile, selfish and unwilling to adapt to the modest and dignified lifestyle of the townspeople. Mr. and Mrs. Warner alike are both threatened and disgusted by their houseguest, and can’t stomach the idea of him producing a grandchild with their only daughter.
And who can blame them. When their small town values get tossed asunder by this ineloquent tourist, it’s mystifying that they don’t run him out of town with an angry mob. But then again, he does teach them the latest slang. Where would the Warners be without “grubbage” in their vocabulary?
The Birdcage: The Goldman Family vs. Sen. Kevin Kealy
There’s bound to be one intolerant member in every family. But when Val Goldman, son of prominent gay nightclub owners Armand and Albert, becomes engaged to the daughter of an openly homophobic United States Senator…that’s pushing the limits. Devoted to making their son happy, Armand and Albert pretend to be something they are not in order to appease the bigoted senator at a family dinner and win his approval of Val for his daughter. However, it’s not long before the charade is blown, and the true, despicable feelings are let loose.
Before Kealy came along, Val and his fathers cherished their blissful, loving family unit. It was only when the menacing figure stepped into their lives that Val did profess any shame for the sort of parents he had. Now that's an intimidating in-law. It doesn’t take long for him to realize what truly matters, however. The senator may be an intimidating menace, but he’s no match for the Goldman family’s love.
The In-Laws: Sheldon Kornpett vs. Vincent Ricardo
Most troublesome in-law situations deal directly with at least one of the parties involved in the new marriage. The classic comedy film The In-Laws, however, illustrates the trouble that can occur between the extended families—specifically, the respective fathers of the bride and groom. Now, getting along with an in-law might be a troublesome feat in a normal circumstance. But when one is a supposed government operative who drags you along on his death-defying schemes? That’s none too easy to get past.
Sheldon Kornpett is a mild-mannered dentist whose life gets twisted out of shape when his daughter marries the son of Vincent Ricardo, a secret agent without much of a regard for his or Sheldon’s life. In the days surrounding the wedding, Ricardo ropes Sheldon into some high-risk globetrotting adventures—none of which Sheldon, a simple dentist, ever signed up for. Sure, it makes for interesting wedding toast material, but a maniacal action-hero (or antihero) like Vincent Ricardo is not exactly the sort of man you want coming over for family dinners every other weekend.
Meet the Parents: Greg Focker vs. Jack Byrnes
The mother of all father-in-laws is Jack Byrnes, the possessive, untrusting retired CIA agent who makes one simple weekend (and two very profitable sequels) hell for his daughter’s boyfriend/husband, Greg Focker. Most potential in-laws stick to passive-aggressive hostility, or roundabout manipulation to make the whole idea of courting their family members an unbearable experience. Jack Byrnes’ endeavors in this field are a tour de force. He employs verbal intimidation, threats, actual physical violence, and a vast array of high tech spy equipment—not excluding polygraph machines.
And what is perhaps the worst thing about Jack? He never seems to take a liking to Greg. Sure, each movie ends with him swallowing his pride and giving his poor victim a pat on the back…but things are right back to the way they began come Act I of the next movie. Let’s just hope, for Greg Focker’s sake, that he won’t be suffering through any fourquels or fivequels…otherwise, that marriage might be on thin ice.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Prince vs. The Evil Queen
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most intimidating in-law of them all? Even Disney stories can’t catch a break with the in-laws. The pressure pretty much doubles when you’re dealing with royal families since so much is at stake and they don’t want their children partnering up with someone that could ruin their kingdom (I assume since I can’t really speak from experience). But this relationship was doomed to be fraught with intimidation.
It’s really hard to really establish a bond with your mother-in-law when she keeps trying to kill your wife. It just tends to put a damper on things, even in the animated world. The Evil Queen makes all other in-laws look like a walk in the park. Granted, she was a step-mother, but that still counts since she was basically the only family Snow White had left. It’s your basic hero-villain dynamic, so they never really stood much of a chance of making nice with one another and you can forget about any family dinners (especially anything with apples).
Ross from Friends
Episode: "The One With The Halloween Party"
Why it's so great: Get it? Sputnik? Spudnik? Potato space station? It's so perfectly nerdy we could stop here. (But we won't.)
Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation
Episode: "Greg Pikitis"
Why it's so great: It's Tom Haverford, the greatest wannabe baller on television dressed as his idol and doing a terrible, but zealous, impression. Perfection.
Troy from Community
Why it's so great: It's a toilet seat cover that says "Dracula." It's so lazy it comes back around to brilliant. Plus, Donald Glover shirtless is never bad.
Fez from That 70s Show
Episode: "Too Old To Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die"
Why it's so great: It's Fez in stockings and a pearl necklace completely misunderstanding the point of his character. Enough said.
Jim from The Office
Episode: "The Koi Pond"
Why it's so great: It's obstinate and sarcastic, it builds on his original lazy costume (three hole punch Jim), and he's so lovable he can get away with it.
Haley from Modern Family
Why it's so great: This is what Haley wears when her mother says her other costume is too slutty. This is insulting to the word conservative...and Mother Theresa...and charity -- which is also why it's so hilarious.
The Three Stooges
Uncle Jesse, Uncle Joey and Danny from Full House
Episode: "It's Not My Job"
Why it's so great: Honestly, it's just stupidly cute -- just like everything else on that show.
Barney from How I Met Your Mother
Episode: "Slutty Pumpkin"
Why it's so great: This is how I imagine Barney sees himself on a daily basis, so of course that who he dresses as for Halloween.
Chang from Community
Why it's so great: Jeff guesses Chang's costume, "Kristi Yamaguchi?" to which Chang responds, "Peggy Fleming. You're racist! Just been proven racist by the racist prover." So Chang. So perfect.
Michael and His Other Head
Michael Scott from The Office
Why it's great: Michael Scott with an extra paper mache head. Comedy gold.
Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj from The Big Bang Theory
Episode: "The Middle Earth Paradigm"
Why it's great: Four nerds arguing over matching super hero costumes, plus Raj's idea that they could walk in a straight line so they look like the Flash moving really quickly is too solid to ignore.
Phantom of The Opera
Charlie from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Episode: "Who Got Dee Pregnant?"
Why it's great: "He eats theater people!" "No, he doesn't." "I think he might."
President Obama on SNL
Episode: Season 33, Episode 4
Why it's great: I think that's pretty obvious.
Green Zone is a story we’ve already heard shot in a manner we’ve already seen and starring Matt Damon in a role he’s already played. Remember those WMDs that were never found in Iraq and later exposed to be the invention of a dubious and poorly-vetted informant? Remember the misguided and hideously botched attempt at establishing democracy after the fall of Saddam and the violent prolonged insurgency that ensued? If you’ve been away from the television for the past hour and somehow managed to forget any of these details Green Zone is here to remind you.
Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller an Army weapons inspector whose frustration over repeatedly coming up empty in his search for Iraqi WMDs leads him on a quest to track down and expose the people responsible for leading him (and us) down that infamously bogus path. Though his hand-to-hand skills are a notch below Jason Bourne’s Miller’s single-mindedness moral certainty and permanent expression of square-jawed defiance — always threatening another “How do you like them apples?” rebuke — in the face of an insidious multi-level government conspiracy are essentially equivalent to those of Damon’s Bourne trilogy soulmate.
And like Bourne his most dangerous adversary isn’t found on the battlefront but rather within the government he once served so proudly. As Miller delves ever deeper into the Case of the Faulty WMD Intelligence Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) the duplicitous arrogant Defense Department bureaucrat in charge of U.S. operations in Iraq summarily relieves him of his post. (Hint: the better dressed a Green Zone character is the more sinister his ambitions.) But Miller remains undeterred and he goes rogue to locate the CIA informant “Magellan ” a formerly high-ranking Iraqi official whose supposed confirmation of Saddam’s nuclear ambitions served as the basis for U.S. invasion.
We know how the story ends. Green Zone’s pervasive overarching sense of deja vu is accentuated by director — and veteran Bourne helmer — Paul Greengrass who employs the trademark hand-held super-shakycam style which was so fresh and inventive in 2004 but now feels stale and predictable. (Admittedly my aversion to Greengrass’ approach was no doubt heightened by a previous night’s viewing of Roman Polanski’s excellent The Ghost Writer a political thriller as subtle and precise and finely tuned as Green Zone is ham-fisted and haphazard — and which also uses the phantom WMD controversy to far greater narrative effect.)
Green Zone culminates in essentially a violent footrace between Miller and the Army Special Forces as they scour a heavily-armed insurgent stronghold to find Magellan with Miller hoping to secure his potentially damning testimony before the Army can silence him for good. The climactic sequence for all I could tell was either shot in Damon’s backyard culled from Bourne trilogy deleted scenes or assembled from scattered YouTube clips. This punishingly chaotic often incoherent and ultimately exhausting approach to storytelling isn’t cinema verite; it’s dementia pugilistica.