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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Ever since Bridesmaids earned Kristen Wiig a place in the heart of anyone with a funnybone in 2011, we've all been waiting to see what she'd do next. Sure, she was a part of the ensemble comedy Friends With Kids, but the real test of her mettle would be a solo vehicle. That film has now arrived, and it's bound to be monumentally disappointing to her fans.
Girl Most Likely is an elaborate frame for Wiig's studied awkwardness — her long pauses, her almost muttered delivery of dialogue — that, unlike Bridesmaids, is content to turn every character other than Wiig's into a cartoon. That it comes from directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, whose 2003 triumph American Splendor brims with a generosity of spirit undetectable in Girl Most Likely, is all the more dispiriting.
Imogene (Wiig) is a failed playwright who moves from dead-end job to dead-end job while pursuing her dream in Manhattan. All that sustains her are elaborate fantasies of winning a Tony Award, the fact that she was once listed among New York Magazine's "10 Playwrights to Watch," plus her Dutch boyfriend and a coterie of airkissing, one-shoulder-gown-wearing social climber friends. But after her mate dumps her, she fakes an attempt on her life as a cry for help — at least she knows she's still got some writing chops because everyone sure found her suicide note convincing.
Imogene's remanded to the custody of her louche mother (Annette Bening) in Ocean City, New Jersey. There, against her will, she reconnects with her roots. The problem is that Berman, Pulcini, and screenwriter Michelle Morgan don't seem as interested in establishing a "home is where the heart is" vision of Jersey as a place of acceptance and authenticity as they are in smugly reducing the Garden State to clichés we've seen a million times before: Imogene's brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald) is in love with a woman who sells glitter on the boardwalk! '90s revue shows featuring Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys impersonators are the height of culture! Everybody gambles! The only thing missing is a recitation of the GTL credo.
Imogene and Ralph are characters deeply damaged by life, but their traumas are treated as lightly as waterside cotton candy. We're left to regard each of them as a mass of quirks rather than as human beings. Even the usually sublime Bening is a cardboard cutout. She could play this character in her sleep, as could Matt Dillon as a "CIA Agent" with the codename George Bouche (sound it out!) as her boyfriend.
Where Bridesmaids felt so fresh in every scene — especially in its depiction of female friendship — Girl Most Likely falls back on threadbare tropes over and over. In addition to that scene of Imogene fantasizing about winning a Tony Award, we’ve got a "wild party!" montage of her doing shots and dancing crazy with her mom's tenant Darren Criss.
Worse still, Berman and Pulcini, who masterfully reconstructed the process of writing in American Splendor, now seem to have no affinity for how a writer, like Imogene, would actually live and work. She only seems to bring pen to page or fingers to keyboard off-camera, and that makes the finale (which we won't reveal here) feel all the more unearned.
We will say this, though: sometimes being the bridesmaid is better than being the bride.
What do you think? Tell Christian Blauvelt directly on Twitter @Ctblauvelt and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
More: ‘Girl Most Likely’ Clips Will Leave You Smiling Kristen Wiig Deserved Better From Her ‘SNL’ Return Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader to Reunite for ‘The Skeleton Twins’
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
A $19,000 donation from controversial West End musical Jerry Springer: The Opera has been rejected by a cancer charity.
Maggie's Centres have refused to accept the money from producers of the
expletive-laden London stage show following advice from moral group Christian
The charity warns accepting the cash would precipitate a religious boycott of
their charitable work.
A Maggie's spokesperson says, "As a result of contact from Christian Voice,
Maggie's has taken the decision not to accept the proceeds from a special
performance on Feb. 18 of Jerry Springer: The Opera."
Christian Voice's Stephen Green explains, "We did have a chat with Maggie's.
But the decision to pull out was theirs alone.
"All I did was explain that if they carried on they would cause offense to
Christians, who are known for being generous."
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