There is something to be said for ambition. The sort of unabashed, no holds barred, balls to the wall energy that makes anything seem like a good idea. Though you'll cock your head at the results of this kind of caution-to-the-wind bravado, the all-inclusive "sure, why not?" attitude, you can't help but crack a smile for the purveyors of this spirit: the first grader who stuffs his class diorama with every figurine and pipe cleaner machination he can muster, the bird who lines its nest with candy wrappers and Fedex receipts, or the people who made the Mortal Instruments movie. They, quite possibly, are the mightiest knights of them all.
You don't have to wait too long for the crazy to kick up in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. We open on the most spacious apartment in the history of Brooklyn, where young Lily Collins is beginning to see mysterious symbols popping up everywhere, only the first sign of the fantastical journey set to take form. Mother Lena Headey, aided by her platonic friend Aidan Turner, plays the Dursley card and takes effort to deter any exploration of the ominous elements to befall her daughter. But as with every spunky mystic around her age, Collins cannot be restrained. She follows her heart and embarks on a quest, aided by her platonic friend Robert Sheehan, through every single conceivable element of modern fantasy.
The Harry Potter similarities continue when Collins is ushered into a demonic otherworld via New York City's equivalent of a murky train platform (an ecstasy-laden dance club), guided by New York City's equivalent of a haggard woodland giant (a perpetually shirtless goth ghost, played by Jamie Campbell Bower). Working her way up from glowing-eyed club druggers and pieces of living jewelry to demons, werewolves, witches, vampires, and interdimensional portals — tossed in one by one as we gradually abandon all devotion to any margins of logic — Collins engages in an adventure that seems entirely open to all possibilities. Or at least all possibilities that have proven vigilant at the box office in the past four years.
And as she engages, so do we. Not exactly in the way you engage with Harry Potter... more in the way you engage with the Harry Potter ride at Islands of Adventure. You'll embrace the likable and talented Collins just enough to forge the sort of relationship you want with a fantasy heroine. You'll find yourself rooting one way or the other in the love triangle between her, the Shirtless Shadowhunter (Campbell Bower), and her lovestruck pal Simon (Sheehan). You won't have to work too hard to understand most of the mystical facets tossed your way: you know the rules of vampires (no sunlight), of werewolves (they're dudes sometimes), of demons (they're bad). And when it does get confusing, like when teleportation bubbles and portal beams from the afterlife and curses and tarot cards and dreadlocks are tossed into the equation, you have the luxury of abandoning the puzzle. You're not asked to understand anything, just to accept it all.
Accept that all this madness can, does, and should occur within the malleable reality occupied by Collins and her ghastly friends. When it is revealed that classical musicians had a hand in these supernatural forays, accept it. When you're taken from wizards' palaces to Willy Wonkian wonderlands to the destitute streets of a haunted Manhattan post 3 AM, accept it. When genealogical revelations tie everything together in a bow so strange as to put the peculiarity of bat invasions, corpse armies, glowing hieroglyph tattoos, and memory erasing club promoters, accept it. If you can do all that, you'll find a comical thrill ride in this two hours of steadily accelerating madness, this Mulligan Stew of YA fiction. But if you're too hung up on logic, rules, world building, or any semblance of pacing, stick with Potter — Mortal Instruments is for the most adamant "sure, why not?"-ers only.
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More:Lily Collins Talks 'Mortal Instruments'Jared Harris Talks 'Mortal Instruments'Hollywood.com's YA Summer Book Club
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Jared Harris knows a thing or two about pop culture occults and the cults of pop culture. The Emmy-nominated actor is perhaps best known to audiences for his roles on fervent fan favorite TV shows like Fringe and Mad Men. Harris will next be seen in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the big screen adaptation of Cassandra Clare's popular fantasy YA series in which he plays Hodge Starkweather, a cursed tutor who teaches the Shadowhunters, a group of underground demon hunters.
"This year, I’ve done three, for f**k’s sake! What’s going on?" Harris told Hollywood.com on the Toronto set of The Mortal Instruments regarding his recent transition into the fantasy/horror genre, in which TMI certainly falls. "I did a movie called The Quiet Ones, which was about a guy who’s investigating paranormal events... and then I played the devil. And then now I’m in this film, which is all about demons and s**t, so yeah, it’s been a weird year for that."
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Still, even after unintentionally finding himself in yet another supernatural film, he still found new and exciting challenges in playing the morally-conflicted Hodge. "He’s a fun character. You don’t know which side he’s playing on, which is always interesting to do," Harris said. "[He] is someone who knows what the right thing to do is, but for his own reasons, is making a different deal, because he’s trying to change his circumstances. But he knows the difference between the right thing and the wrong thing to do, and he’s not delusional in the sense that he doesn’t think that he’s doing something for the betterment of mankind or some bulls**t like that. He knows that what he’s doing is purely to get his own ass out of the situation that he’s stuck in."
So what could be better than getting to play someone as unpredictable as Hodge? Getting to fight and dress up as someone like Hodge. "What’s great fun is I get to fight Dredger [Robert Maillet, who plays Samuel Blackwell, one of TMI's baddies] from Sherlock Holmes. He’s a f**king enormous man. So it’s been fun, because when you do all these fight scenes, you try and jazz ‘em up and everything. And then I sit there and I go, 'Listen, if this guy hit me, I’d collapse. I’d crumble if he actually managed to actually connect with me.' But I was really excited that I was fighting him, because I f**king loved him in that movie."
RELATED: 'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones' Trailer
But don't put Harris — who memorably went fisticuffs-to-fisticuffs with Vincent Kartheiser's Pete Campbell in a classic episode of Mad Men — down for the count just yet. "I can still kick ass, man," the Brit assured us. Harris also got to do a physical transformation of his own, thanks to the fake Shadowhunter tattoos and the gothic aesthetics used to bring Hodge to life. "I have a scar, which I didn’t have before. A good prosthetic scar, a white wig....which is a bit shocking. You look in the mirror and you see what you might be like a couple years from now."
Still, the 51-year-old actor didn't feel old on the TMI set, which was largely comprised of young Hollywood up-and-comers like Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower, thanks to their professionalism. "Nowadays you find that a lot of the youngsters have been doing it almost as long as you have, because they’ve been doing it since they were 6, you know?" Harris said, adding, "So they’re all pros."
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Harris also seem unphased by the much younger following TMI has as opposed to, say, Mad Men. The actor, who admitted he hadn't read Clare's books before signing on to the project, noted "This is slightly different than the Mad Men [fandom] because it exists in a literary form first, the fans have [it in their] imaginations already. But something like Mad Men, it exists in Matt Weiner’s mind. And no one can read what Season 6 and Season 7 is, because it’s in his head."He added, "So I would say in that sense, it’s probably a little freer, whereas in this one, you have an obligation to that mythology. And you don’t want to piss the fans off, you know?"
As any TMI fan would argue, oh do they know. But Harris assured that he, his TMI castmates and crew members have done everything in their powers to ensure that doesn't happen. As Harris put it, "You have to honor the mythology that’s been created in the books, which they have done."
[Photo credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images]
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British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen emerged triumphant at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards last night, taking home two prizes.
Cohen picked up Best Comedic Performance for his turn in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and Best Kiss for his smooch with Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Elsewhere at the Gibson Amphitheatre ceremony in Universal City, California, Johnny Depp won the Best Performance award for his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Man's Chest, which also won Best Movie.
Mike Myers was presented with the MTV Generation Award by his Shrek costar Cameron Diaz.
The winners at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards were:
Best Villain--Jack Nicholson, The Departed
Best Fight--Gerard Butler Vs. The Uber Immortal (Robert Maillet), 300
Best Kiss--Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Breakthrough Performance--Jaden Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Best Comedic Performance--Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
MTV Generation Award--Mike Myers
Best Movie Spoof--United 300
Best Summer Movie You Haven't Seen Yet--Transformers
Best Performance--Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Best Movie--Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
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Built from comic book auteur Frank Miller’s (Sin City) rock solid foundations 300 is based on his vision on the 1962 film The 300 Spartans filtered through the same tough-as-nails pulp sensibility that populates most of his comics work. Leaving such leaden wannabe sword-and-sandal epics like Troy and Alexander in the historical dust 300 reworks the real-life legendary tale of the Battle of Thermopylae in which a battalion of 300 elite Spartan soldiers heroically hold the line to protect ancient Greece from the invading Persian hordes. The story focuses on the Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) who must not only lead his small cadre of troops--each one honored since childhood into a razor-sharp battle-relishing warrior—into a battle they are unlikely to survive but he must also fight for the fate of Greece and its democratic ideals. As the bizarre seemingly endless marauding legions of the tyrant Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) descend upon the Hot Gates—a narrow passageway into Greece that Leonidas’ miniscule band can most ably defend—the soldiers take up arms without the usual post-modern anti-war hand-wringing that most war epics indulge in. These soldiers are both bred for battle and fighting a good fight and the film focuses squarely on the highly charged action. Meanwhile in a new plotline created specifically for the movie his equally noble and faithful queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) takes up arms in a more symbolic way as she also tries to keep democracy alive by taking on the political warlords of Sparta to secure relief for her husband’s troops. Butler has become a familiar and welcome on-screen presence in such films as The Phantom of the Opera and Reign of Fire but there has been little on his mainstream movie resume to suggest the kind of bravura fire he brings to the role of Leonidas. This is the stuff of an actor announcing himself to the audience in a major way akin to Daniel Craig’s star-making turn as James Bond. In a big bold performance that could have gone awry in any number of ways Butler plays even the highest pitched notes like a concerto perfectly capturing the king’s bravado bombast cunning compassion and passion each step of the way. Headey is his ideal match imbuing the queen with more steel and nobility in a handful of scenes than most actresses can summon to carry entire films. Fans of Lost and Brazilian cinema will be hard-pressed to even recognize Santoro whose earnest pretty handsomeness is radically transformed into Xerxes’ exotic borderline freakish form personifying a terrifying yet seductive force of corruption and evil that spreads like a cancer across the earth. And don’t forget to add in the most impressive array of rock-hard abs on cinematic display since well ever (think Brad Pitt in Troy times 300). Even bolstered by canny casting choices and their washboard stomachs helmer Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) is the true undisputable star of 300 establishing himself firmly as a director whose work demands to be watched. With a kinetic sensibility that’s akin to Quentin Tarantino and John Woo and using CGI technology to its utmost effects both subtle and dynamic Snyder creates a compelling fully formed world that the audience is eager to explore. Snyder doesn’t literally match Miller’s signature artwork as meticulously as director Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City. Instead Snyder captures Miller’s essence be it raw brutality majestic size and scope the exotic and otherworldly carnal physicality or hideous deformity--even seemingly antiquated and potentially off-putting techniques like the repeated use of slow-motion are put to fresh effect making every blow and cut seem crucial. Yet even in the visual glorification of some of the most bloody and violent conflicts ever put to film Snyder infuses the tale—which ultimately is one big glorious testosterone-soaked fight sequence—with the sense of honor and sacrifice which characterizes the most noble of war efforts. Yes war can be hell but this is a case where some like it hot.