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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NBC may still be in fourth place, but that doesn't mean they were hurting for news at today's Television Critics Panel, in which the network's entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt and other Peacock execs unveiled a slate of exciting upcoming programming...and less than satisfactorily addressed NBC's shortcomings. Here's what we learned.
1. A Hillary Clinton Miniseries Is in the Works
Diane Lane has been cast to play the former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State in a four-hour miniseries event that will likely air in late 2014 or early 2015. Greenblatt was quick to note that it most likely will broadcast before Clinton announces whether or not she will seek the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nomination, a decision expected in spring or summer of 2015. No word yet on who will play Bill.
2. Rosemary's Baby to be Rebooted
Roman Polanski's 1968 horror-pregnancy classic will become a series, following the network's success with turning another classic horror movie franchise into a TV series in Hannibal.
3. Stephen King's The Tommyknockers To Get the Series Treatment
Considering the blockbuster numbers for CBS' summer adaptation of Stephen King's Under the Dome, NBC wants a piece of the action. So they're planning a series treatment for King's 1987 novel about the residents of a Maine town who slowly fall under the influence of a mysterious object in the woods, The Tommyknockers.
4. NBC's Ratings Are Fine!
Greenblatt defended NBC's ever-sagging ratings and suggested that there would be nothing the network could do to replicate the success of say, The Walking Dead, a hit so big he called it "an anomaly." Way to set the bar low!
5. Sunday Night Football Will Feature Matrix-style Replays
360-degree "bullet time" replays are in the works to give viewers an all-angle overview of key plays during Sunday Night Football next season. Sounds expensive, but considering that it's the only NBC franchise with blockbuster numbers it's probably a sound investment.
6. Sean Hayes Has a Bold Proclamation for His New Show
The former Will & Grace star, who despite playing a gay character for years on the hit series only recently came out of the closet himself, says sexuality isn't at the forefront of his new series Sean Saves the World. Rather, he calls it a "post-gay" series.
7. Sorry, Jessica Simpson
NBC has canceled the reality-competition show Fashion Star.
8. Praise for The New Normal, Just Not Renewal
Greenblatt called the Ryan Murphy-cocreated sitcom "ahead of its time" in its depiction of a gay couple...so ahead of its time that it had to be canceled.
9. They Want Jay Leno to Stick Around
But not on The Tonight Show, nor on a 10:00 variety show. Greenblatt says he's hoping Leno will become an NBC alumnus like Bob Hope, who in his later years didn't have a regular show on the network but remained loyal to it nonetheless, popping up for specials every now and then.
10. Why? Whyyyyyyyy?
In time for their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next February, NBC Sports will produce an original documentary on the 20th anniversary of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan's infamous clubbing attack at the hands of the ex-husband of her skating rival, Tonya Harding.
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More: ‘American Idol’ Racist: 10 Former Contestants Filing a Lawsuit Think So ‘The Bible’ Is Getting a Sequel and Moving to NBC ‘Under the Dome’ Premiere Recap
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In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
George Clooney is reportedly dating a young actress and bartender he met while working on the set of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in Montreal, Canada. According to Canada's National Post, the 40-year-old actor has been meeting Maria Bertrand, 27, at the Globe restaurant, a hot spot for celebs shooting films in the city. However, Bertrand's agent Cha Cha DaVinci insists the stars are just friends who enjoy being with each other. Bertrand, who has a small part in the movie, was on the set of Dangerous Mind Thursday to shoot a sequence with Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. The film is based on the life of game-show host Chuck Barris, who claimed to be a CIA hit man.
Film critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper had planned to review movie trailers at the annual ShoWest conference in Las Vegas but hit a wall because studios wouldn't give them any trailers. Ebert and Roeper instead griped about trailers in general, saying they were too loud, too long and give out too much about the plot, Reuters reports. Ebert, who recently underwent surgery, also complained about the state of modern theaters, asking, "Is it possible to sell anything at the concession stand that doesn't kill?"
Audiences will have to wait until next week to watch knee whacker Tonya Harding and presidential scandalmonger Paula Jones duke it out. While the Fox network's Celebrity Boxing was taped Thursday, the event will not be broadcast until next Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. Also set to face off in the ring are Danny Bonaduce versus Barry Williams, and Vanilla Ice against Todd Bridges.
William Baldwin, Paul Sorvino and Valerie Harper plan to build a movie studio in Trenton, N.J.'s abandoned factories. The three met with state lawmakers Thursday in a bid to gain support for the project, which they say would generate $100 million in taxable revenues and bring hundreds of jobs for construction workers, hairdressers, tailors and dry cleaners.
Glenn Close, Matthew Modine and Stephen Fry are the latest additions to the cast of James Ivory's Le Divorce. According to Variety, the film is a comedy about two American sisters confronted with the decadence of French bourgeois society. The film, which begins shooting Monday in Paris, also stars Naomi Watts, Kate Hudson, Stockard Channing and James Waterston.
Former NYPD Blue star David Caruso is leaving what he calls the "cynical, hard-core energy" of Los Angeles for Miami Beach, AP reports. Caruso, who owns a $1 million South Beach condo with his wife, will co-own a clothing and home furnishings store.
The Screen Actors Guild rerun election is heading into its final week, with mud slinging at an all-time high. Melissa Gilbert won the election in January, but a SAG election committee ordered a rerun election when rival Valerie Harper alleged balloting irregularities. Ballots mailed out last month are due back March 8.
Mariah Carey may have found something useful to do with the $28 million pay-off she received from Virgin Records recently. According to Miami's Power 96 radio station, the currently un-signed singer wants to have a semi-independent subsidiary label of her own. A spokesperson for Carey said she is meeting with a number of labels and looking into a variety of possibilities.
Rumors are circulating that Green Day will induct the Ramones in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 18 at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Launch.com interviewed Johnny Ramone, who said he would love to be ushered in by Green Day frontman Billy Joe, but nothing has been officially confirmed. Singer Jewel, who may or may not perform, will also be inducting Brenda Lee.