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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Pictured (from left to right): Jennifer Lawrence in 'The Hunger Games,' Kathryn Bigelow, Lena Dunham, Jessica Chastain in 'Zero Dark Thirty,' and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer
If you have eyes, the ability to read, and Internet access, you’ve probably read an article at some point this year about The Magnanimous Excellence of The Female Species and How Women Shall Inherit The Earth As Men Go Running Scared Into Oblivion. You’d think some Amazonian tribe of women was running rampant, snatching up cities across the U.S. and claiming the land for all possessors of lady parts. Sometime in the past 12 months, we decided that 2012 was the year of women, especially in the entertainment industry. But that’s not exactly true.
What 2012 actually is, is a year of some women. But our oversimplification of the status of women this year is understandable, however inaccurate. When our discourse is dominated by proclamations of women “dominating” the Senate after a record 20 women won their respective elections, the “high” number of female showrunners in television, Marissa Mayer’s corporate domination as a working mother and CEO of Yahoo, Lena Dunham’s ability to project all of our neuroses on national television in a thoughtful and powerful way, and the notion that film characters like The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Zero Dark Thirty’s feminist-dream Maya (Jessica Chastain) signal girl power as the new norm, it’s no wonder we feel that women in 2012 hold more weight than ever. But perhaps it’s not the events themselves that are noteworthy, but rather our great proclivity for the discussion.
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“I think 2012 is a year in which women have a really powerful appetite to celebrate powerful women and our questions about where and when women are not powerful,” says Clare Winterton, Executive Director of the International Museum of Women. “The rate at which we’ve given due to those issues is very high. Whether or not that visibility is matched by concrete signs of advancement for women across the board is a big question,” she adds. The discussion around women and women’s progress, in Hollywood and elsewhere, has been given great wings in 2012, but it certainly doesn’t mean that suddenly, just before the Mayans predicted the downfall of civilization, women have “done it.” It’s still a work in progress, but one that saw a few significant boosts this year.
It’s something co-producer and co-screenwriter for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Philippa Boyens, has experienced firsthand. “I just did a producers roundtable, which was fantastic, and there were lots of female producers … there was once a time when there wouldn’t have been any women at that table, but now we make up half the table,” she says. And Boyens’ moment isn’t a singular piece of evidence for women advancing in entertainment.
Hollywood in 2012 boasts a laundry list of lady-led accomplishments. More and more women, like New Girl’s Liz Meriwether, Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23’s Nahnatchka Khan, and of course Girls’ incomparable Dunham, are running things behind the scenes of some of pop culture’s most talked about shows. Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to her Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker, and its impressive heroine are wowing critics as the film quickly rolls towards yet another Best Director nod for Bigelow. The Venice Film Festival made headlines this year because unlike Cannes — which failed to qualify a single female director for the illustrious Palme d’Or award — it offered up four main competition spots to female directors (albeit out of a whopping 17 spots). USC film school, one of the top in the world, cites an undergraduate class that is almost half women (41 percent, to be exact), suggesting the promise of more and more great women behind the camera. Even film critics like AP’s Christy Lemire and LA Weekly’s Karina Longworth continue to be significant voices in a male-dominated conversation, and Emily Nussbaum has just completed her first year as the voice of TV criticism for The New Yorker and as one of the top voices in the field itself. And while this lineup may be enough to send some of us into the streets crying, “We’ve made it, ladies!” it’s not time for that. Yet.
“The field is so much bigger now,” says independent filmmaker and NYU film school professor Christine Choy. “But I can still count the great female directors on one hand … and in general, they don’t last too long,” she adds. For every Dunham and Bigelow, we find a handful of forgotten directors like Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik, whose name faded into the background after they rolled up the red carpet at the 2011 Academy Awards. And while folks like Bigelow and Dunham certainly seem to be standing the test of Hollywood time — which tends to move even faster than that speedy New York minute — they can’t single-handedly change the face of the unarguably male-dominated entertainment industry. “One director is not enough,” says Choy.
And that’s because progress don’t simply manifests itself like a happy ending in a princess movie. The reality is a little more complex, as is the goal of equalizing the positions of women and men in entertainment. Our infatuation with the progress made by our real-life heroines doesn’t change the fact that they’re just starting to get the ball rolling.
“It’s a fair assessment to say women aren’t progressing as fast some of the popular representations of women would like you to believe,” says Winterton. Successes on the scale of Marissa Mayer and Bigelow obfuscate the indicators of the work that’s left to be done, like the fact that 2012 saw almost no growth in women holding top positions at Fortune 500 companies or the fact that for every woman who’s a noteworthy director or showrunner in entertainment, there are legions of men outnumbering her.
While 2012 delivered us legions of powerful female characters – even Twilight’s Bella pulled ahead of her brooding lover as a hero in the series’ final installment this November – and powerful women, it came with the pall of the realization that the world hasn’t exactly caught up. Body shaming was rampant in coverage of some of the most successful women on the planet: Lady Gaga, Jessica Simpson, and even Adele were subject to chatter about their weight, completely undermining the level to which all three of these women are dominating their industries (Simpson, of course has a wildly successful clothing and accessories empire). Acclaimed author Bret Easton Ellis brought the discourse down several notches when he claimed Bigelow’s work was only acclaimed because she’s “a very hot woman.” The woman behind the female empowerment tale Brave was outed as the film’s director due to “creative differences” – a change many some critics fear will mar the progress of female animation directors.
If 2012 proved anything it's that the work is not done. If anything, the conversation is just getting started.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: Photo Illustration by Hollywood.com; Photo Credits: WENN (2); WireImage; Lionsgate; Columbia Pictures; Disney/Pixar]
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Yesterday was Cyber Monday, so I watched last night’s episode of The Voice on my ten 10%-off (10 times 10 equals 100% off; I am a financial genius) plasma TVs I bought earlier that morning with Amazon Prime One-Hour Shipping. Here’s what you missed.
No one has cared so much about a Top 8 since back when MySpace had more than four active users (and, let’s be real, one of those is Tom). Cee Lo Green is the only coach to have retained three artists in the competition, while Dez Duron stands alone as the sole remaining member of Team Christina—Obi Dez Duroni, you’re her only hope. (Considering her recent hairstyles on The Voice, it’s only a matter of time till Xtina shows up for a taping in Princess Leia buns.)
The show starts with 50 Cent and Adam Levine dueting on their new single “My Life.” A fog machine on full blast and an abundance of neon “50” signs can’t distract from how meh this is. I’d rather see Adam perform with some kind of freaky asylum patient from American Horror Story.
The first to take the stage for Team Adam is Amanda Brown, former Adele background singer—going full All About Eve with a cover of the English superstar’s “Someone Like You.” But this ain’t no ballad. Amanda brings a gritty, rock-and-roll edge to her performance, completely transforming the song’s tone. Get it, girl.
Cee Lo envisions Cody Belew as a latter-day Freddie Mercury, so what better song for him to cover than Queen’s “Somebody to Love?” This classic track requires personality as well as power, and boyfriend delivers—recovering from last week’s Beyoncé misstep with a performance grounded in strong vocals.
But that’s not to say Cody’s lost his oddball “bam bam” charm. When he climbs atop a grand piano—as a full choir in floor-length robes looks on—it’s clear that he’s more in his element than ever.
Cassadee Pope, Dez Duron, Melanie Martinez and Terry McDermott band together for a version of the All-American Rejects’ “Move Along.” For reasons that escape me, they are accompanied by Max Headroom lookalikes in sleeveless suits, banging on light-up garbage cans with glowsticks. Yup.
Terry is up next, performing coach Blake Shelton’s own (!) “Over.” Blake modestly explains the song is “better suited for Terry” than it ever was for his own voice (ugh, humility dreamboat), and that he wants America to see McDermott perform something other than classic rock.
Terry’s rendition is completely solid, but not terribly exciting—save for a weird, avant garde close-up of a lightbulb, because somebody behind the camera just wrapped up their first prereq for their Film Studies minor.
Though she’s complimentary overall, Christina points out that Terry’s voice falters slightly in its lower range. It’s interesting at this stage to see the backhanded compliments and subtly passive-aggressive digs emerge from competing judges (the exception to this is Blake, who is a perfect, guileless, broad-shouldered angel). They may no longer have a direct hand in who’s eliminated, but damn if they won’t try to sway how America votes.
Team Adam’s baby sister Melanie Martinez covers “Too Close” by Alex Clare—she mentions that she’s chosen this song because she’s “going through a break-up,” and I wonder if we’ll soon have another Taylor Swift on our hands.
This is, in many ways, a standard Melanie performance, but arguably her best so far—this time the raspiness doesn’t feel forced, and her power crescendoes perfectly at the chorus. Melanie looks increasingly mortified each time Adam offers to beat up the boy who apparently wronged her, and I suddenly realize—oh no, she broke his heart. Awk. Somewhere on Long Island tonight, a 17-year-old is crying into his AP Chem textbook. We feel for you, bro.
“A lot of people peg me as this Yale quarterback jock guy,” Dez Duron says with a smirk. No, Dez. No, they don’t. In fact, we peg you as the type of guy who’d cover Justin Bieber, which is exactly what you’re about to do.
It’s actually irrelevant how well Dez sings “U Smile,” because he’ll automatically win the vote of every prepubescent female in the country no matter what he does. I find Dez hopelessly boring, and am embarrassed to admit I sort of stopped paying attention mid-song. As an apology, please accept this actual fan comment left on a recent photo uploaded to Dez’s Facebook fan page: “He.Is.The.Sexiest.Thing.On.This.Universe.”
After last week’s ill-conceived detour into dance music, I’m so relieved that Trevin Hunte has chosen “The Greatest Love of All,” the gold standard of ballads. Increasingly confident—and looking the part of a supah-star in a supah-sparkly blazer—Trevin does some of his best belting yet. “I really hope that this is heaven,” Adam sighs.
Christina Milian is babbling about something to Terry McDermott when, all of a sudden, his wife and son appear in the Skybox alongside them. They giddily make out (Terry and his wife, that is—not his wife and his son, nor his wife and Christina) and it’s possibly the sweetest thing ever.
For the evening’s second group number, Cody, Trevin, Cassadee Pope and Nicholas David perform “Any Way You Want It” (is Journey secretly NBC’s majority shareholder?). In general, these group performances by their nature struggle to surpass the awkward choreography of a middle-school class concert, but this is a strong showing from a strong ensemble.
Baby-daddy-to-be Nicholas David’s rehearsal with Cee Lo is joined by soul legend Bill Withers, there to help David hone his rendition of “What’s Goin’ On.” Nicholas can’t help but stare at Withers—whose “Lean on Me” he covered last week—literally open-mouthed at the sight of his hero. D’aww.
As you’ve probably come to expect from Nicholas, the performance is so, so good. In terms of musicianship, he’s such a refreshing change from his competitors—who frequently sing with virtually untouched prop guitars—as he makes the keyboard his b-word week after week.
Closing out the night is Blake’s Cassadee Pope, still riding high from topping the iTunes charts last week. She takes on Michelle Branch’s “Are You Happy Now,” tapping into the “spiteful” side of the song—inspired by her painful history with her out-of-the-picture father. (Maybe this also served, obliquely, as emotional fodder for “Over You?” Maybe I spend too much time thinking about Cassadee Pope’s childhood? Maybe you don’t know me? Maybe you should back off because you’ll never understand Cassadee’s and my deeply personal connection?)
Back in her pop-punk wheelhouse, Cassadee turns in a strong performance, if not a particularly unique one. For me, it was a letdown after last week’s country revelation. Nevertheless, Adam proclaims her to be the show’s new “front-runner.”
The Voice returns tomorrow night at 8 p.m., when the bottom two artists will be eliminated. Follow Molly on Twitter @mollyfitz.
[Photo Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC]
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’Liz & Dick’ Is Bad in the Worst Possible Way: Review
The folks over at Lifetime who are behind the upcoming Elizabeth Taylor biopic TV movie Liz & Dick aren't exactly playing down the overt Lindsay Lohan comparisons. From the poster with leading lady Lohan standing in front of highlighted LiLo buzz-phrases like "scandal," "child star," and "paparazzi" (what, no fetch?) to the new teaser trailer that almost requires no visuals.
If you closed your eyes with the preview on, first you might think it's a Bing commercial thanks to the use of Alex Clare's "Too Close." But after that you might mistake it for a Lohan biopic rather than a Taylor biopic. Case in point, same sound bites:
- "You're screwing that witch?" Lohan cries. Samantha Ronson rumors aside, there's also a good chance this is key dialogue between Lohan and Charlie Sheen in Scary Movie 5.
- "God, that woman knows how to make an entrance," marvels Grant Bowler as Richard Burton. Oh, Lohan knows how to make entrances alright. Exits, too. - "They drink, they fight, they fornicate." No comment. - "Ugh, who's counting?" whines an annoyed Lohan. Don't worry, we've all lost count of the shenanigans, too. Watch — and listen to — the Liz & Dick teaser trailer below, and see if you can find all the Lohan buzz-words and -phrases. (We found nearly a dozen, including "scandalous," "dangerous," and "infamous.")
Liz & Dick, the unofficial unintentional Lindsay Lohan Lifetime movie, airs in November.
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Remember that glorious two month period earlier this year when Sunday nights, for the first time in history, meant new episodes of Mad Men and Game of Thrones were on the way? If this is the kind of news that made April of 2012 the happiest month of your life, then you'll practically melt over the following news: the developing adventure-drama film The Mortal Instruments has just added two new stars — one from Madison Avenue, one from Westeros.
The Harald Zwart (director of the Jaden Smith version of The Karate Kid) film will now feature Jared Harris, Mad Men's fish-out-of-water Lane Pryce, and Lena Headey, who plays the villainous, incestuous monarch Cersei Lannister on Thrones. Two celebrated actors who have contributed more than their share to their respective programs. The Hollywood Reporter revealed the news, and Hollywood.com has confirmed Headey's casting.
Among the existing cast is star Lily Collins, who plays a young girl whose mother is the victim of a demon kidnapping. In an effort to rescue her mother, the girl learns a great deal of supernatural surprises about her background. The story comes from the novel The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.
This isn't the first time the worlds of Mad Men and Thrones have collided. The NBC sitcom 30 Rock has featured stars of both series, Jon Hamm (Don Draper on Mad Men) and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister on Thrones) as guest starring love interests to Tina Fey's Liz Lemon. Both... didn't work out too well.
[Photo Credit: David Edwards/Daily Celeb]
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