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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There is something particularly unnerving about demon possession. It's the idea of something you can't see or control creeping into your body and taking up residence eventually obliterating all you once were and turning you into nothing more than a sack of meat to be manipulated. Then there's also the shrouded ritual around exorcisms: the Latin chants the flesh-sizzling crucifixes and the burning Holy Water. As it turns out exorcism isn't just the domain of Catholics.
The myths and legends of the Jews aren't nearly as well known but their creepy dybbuk goes toe-to-toe with anything other world religions come up with. There are various interpretations of what a dybbuk is or where it comes from — is it a ghost a demon a soul of a sinner? — but in any case it's looking for a body to hang out in for a while. Especially according to the solemn Hasidic Jews in The Possession an innocent young person and even better a young girl.
The central idea in The Possession is that a fancy-looking wooden box bought at a garage sale was specifically created to house a dybbuk that was tormenting its previous owner. Unfortunately it caught the eye of young Emily (Natasha Calis) a sensitive artistic girl who persuades her freshly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen and Grey's Anatomy) to buy it for her. Never mind the odd carvings on it — that would be Hebrew — or how it's created without seams so it would be difficult to open or why it's an object of fascination for a young girl; Clyde is trying really hard to please his disaffected daughters and do the typical freshly divorced parent dance of trying to please them no matter the cost.
Soon enough the creepy voices calling to Emily from the box convince her to open it up; inside are even creepier personal objects that are just harbingers of what's to come for her her older sister Hannah (Madison Davenport) her mom Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and even Stephanie's annoying new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). Clyde and Stephanie squabble over things like pizza for dinner and try to convince each other and themselves that Emily's increasingly odd behavior is that of a troubled adolescent. It's not of course and eventually Clyde enlists the help of the son of a Hasidic rabbi a young man named Tzadok played by the former Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu to help them perform an exorcism on Emily.
The Possession is not going to join the ranks of The Exorcist in the horror pantheon but it does do a remarkable job of making its characters intelligent and even occasionally droll and it offers up plenty of chills despite a PG-13 rating. Perhaps it's because of that rating that The Possession is so effective; the filmmakers are forced to make the benign scary. Giant moths and flying Torahs take the place of little Reagan violently masturbating with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Gagging and binging on food is also an indicator of Emily's possession — an interesting twist given the anxieties of becoming a woman a girl Emily's age would face. There is something inside her controlling her and she knows it and she is fighting it. The most impressive part of Calis's performance is how she communicates Emily's torment with a few simple tears rolling down her face as the dybbuk's control grows. The camerawork adds to the anxiety; one particularly scary scene uses ordinary glass kitchenware to great effect.
The Possession is a short 92 minutes and it does dawdle in places. It seems as though some of the scenes were juggled around to make the PG-13 cut; the moth infestation scene would have made more sense later in the movie. Some of the problems are solved too quickly or simply and yet it also takes a while for Clyde's character to get with it. Stephanie is a fairly bland character; she makes jewelry and yells at Clyde for not being present in their marriage a lot and then there's a thing with a restraining order that's pretty silly. Emily is occasionally dressed up like your typical horror movie spooky girl with shadowed eyes an over-powdered face and dark clothes; it's much more disturbing when she just looks like an ordinary though ill young girl. The scenes in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn look oddly fake and while it's hard to think of who else could have played Tzadok an observant Hasidic Jew who is also an outsider willing to take risks the others will not Matisyahu is not a very good actor. Still the filmmakers should be commended for authenticity insofar as Matisyahu has studied and lived as a Hasidic Jew.
It would be cool if Lionsgate and Ghost House Pictures were to release the R-rated version of the movie on DVD. What the filmmakers have done within the confines of a PG-13 rating is creepy enough to make me curious to see the more adult version. The Possession is no horror superstar and its name is all too forgettable in a summer full of long-gestating horror movies quickly pushed out the door. It's entertaining enough and could even find a broader audience on DVD. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can read the Old Testament to me any time.
Kim Kardashian might be "in NYC with the whole fam!," according to her Twitter account, but it was rumored boyfriend Kanye West she was spotted spending time with on Saturday afternoon.
The self-described romantic, whose mom Kris and step-dad Bruce were celebrating their 21st wedding anniversary, hit the streets of New York with West for their second public outing this month.
The two fashion lovers, who were dressed mainly in black, hit the high-end store Balenciaga, followed by a stop at the popular Van Leeuwen ice cream truck. After ending her high profile relationship to NBA star Kris Humphries, Kardashian has opted to keep mum about her love life, saying only that "Kanye and I have been friends for years." The 31-year-old did tweet about her love for the Big Apple saying, "Oh how I've missed New York!," but after seeing that smile we're thinking that's not the only thing she's missed.
Photo credit: Splash
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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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Well everyone! This season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians has ended! How do we feel? Good? Bad? Neither because the show has drained us of all emotion? Hooraayyyyyy! I honestly feel like this whole season was a dream because while I remember the season actually occurring, I can't really remember what happened in it. I guess that's normal -- what else are Kardashians good for if not for wiping your brain cleaner than a Lysol cloth? But last night's episode was one that will definitely stick out in our brains for a while because not only was it the last one of the season, but it was alllllllll about how Kris was getting ready to propose to Kim. Let's go down that road, shall we? You're welcome to wear ski masks, and you're also welcome to try and find a way to return them once we're all done here.
"You got my blessing!" - Bruce
Last night's episode began where Sunday's left off: on the golf course. Kris wasn't playing golf very well, and Bruce was making fun of his underwhelming abilities by saying things like, "Man, Space Jam really was pretty accurate -- basketball players really can't play golf!" Kris explained to us, though, that he really wasn't thinking about golf at all while he was playing. Instead, he said, he was too worried about when the right moment would be for him to ask Bruce for permission to marry Kim to focus on the holes. Eventually, Kris finally put his hand on Bruce's shoulder and belted out that he wanted to marry Kim, but it was important to him that he first get permission. Bruce was completely shocked that Kris would even think to ask because Lamar Odom didn't even ask for his permission before he married Khloe, and so Bruce was actually very touched by the gesture. It was a very nice moment in a show that usually takes nice moments, hits them over the head with shovels, and then tosses them in a neighbor's pet cemetery.
"Because the ring was so expensive, when Jonathan went to ensure it, they wouldn't ensure it. So it's traveling by Brinks truck." - Kris J
After Bruce gave Kris his blessing, the two of them went back to Bruce's house and told Kris (the mom). She obviously started to cry, and then her eyes got all big and wide because she started thinking about all the different ways that "they" were going to propose to Kim. This freaked Kris out, but not enough to really do anything about it. He had a bigger problem, anyway. Since Kris already knew that Bruce would condone him marrying Kim, he went ahead and bought a $2 million ring from celebrity jeweler and Kim Kardashian friend, Lorraine Schwartz. The only issue was the ring was in New York, and Kris was obviously in L.A. This meant the ring had to be shipped across the country. But when other Kardashian friend Jonathan went to the post office (I guess?) to ship it, the post office said they weren't going to ensure it because it was worth too much. So instead, Kris had to pay for a Brinks security truck to drive it across the country. You know what Brinks security trucks are, right? They're the armored vehicles that you see outside of banks that are full of money and guarded by balding men in vests who have packs of gum in their pockets so their tasers look bigger! Anyway, the point is, Kris bought something so expensive that a government agency didn't even feel safe handling it.
style="font-weight: bold;">"I can't live in a lesser lifestyle than I live now!" - Kim
Once Kris had the $2 million ring safely in his pocket, he had Kim's mother put together a surprise family dinner for Kim so that Kris could propose in front of the whole family. But as they were driving to the restaurant, Kim started talking about how her friend's house was on the market and she thought they should buy it as a couple. This bothered Kris because Kim wasn't even finished making the payments on the house she just moved into, and it suddenly became clear to him that Kim had no inclination to save any money. Kris tried to explain to Kim that he had a plan for his life and that it was important to him to put some money away for when he was older, and Kim went on this diatribe about how he needed to get a better apartment in NYC because it was too small and didn't have enough security. Kris just kind of kept driving and listened to Kim keep going and going, and then she even felt the need to explain to him that it would be unacceptable for her to life with less luxury than she currently has. Obviously Kris (with the $2 million ring in his pocket) realized that night that it wasn't the right time to propose to Kim.
"We're engaged!" - Kim
A few days after their argument, Kris somehow managed to convince himself that he still wanted to marry Kim. So while she was out and about doing her errands, he took over her bedroom and put candles and rose petals everywhere (doesn't he remember how manic Kim got when she entered their hotel suite in Bora Bora and saw the rose petals all over the bed?!), got down on one knee and just waited for Kim to come back. When Kim eventually returned, she read that Kris had spelled out "Will you marry me?" in red rose petals all over her white carpet and tried really hard not to think about how if there was a sudden rainstorm and she had a leak in her roof that she didn't know about, the red of the petals would stain her carpet. So she dropped her things outside her room, walked in, and went over to Kris. He promptly asked her to marry him AND SHE DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING! She said "UM" a few times! Kris, sensing her hesitation, whipped out the $2 million ring from behind his back and flashed it in her face. Instantaneously after seeing the ring, Kim accepted Kris' proposal. Once she slid the ring on her finger, she spent the rest of the day looking at it and seemed to forget that she only said yes to Kris because of the sheer size of the diamond. If you take a look at the clip below, it's pretty clear that if he didn't have a $2 million ring in that little box, she would have said no.
But Kim said yes, and so she and Kris then went to another family dinner and announced to everyone that they were going to be getting married. Everyone got excited, toasted to them, and wished them all the best, and it's just too bad that not one of them knew that Kim hesitated until she saw the ring. But now come on, what were we to expect -- that she'd marry someone because she loved them? Psh, only Ryan Gosling would do that.