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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Oh X Factor, your double eliminations are merciless. How many hearts must you break? This was certainly one of the more surprising sing-offs we’ve had in a while. Mostly because CeCe Frey wasn’t performing. Somehow America warmed to her circa-2001 rendition of “Lady Marmalade,” cut-out dress, big hair, and all, and voted her safely into the Top 6. So much for L.A. Reid and Simon Cowell’s powers of prognostication, huh? Giving Frey a backhanded compliment on performance night, the Epic Records chairman said, “You’re going down. But you’re going down fighting.” And Cowell? Cowell simply said, “Pack your suitcase.” No, she didn’t go down nor pack her suitcase. CeCe was sent through automatically to the Top 6.
Miss Paige Thomas was not so lucky, however. Despite a lot of booing and the sight of Demi Lovato shaking her perfectly-coifed head at the news of America’s decision, Paige got sent home first. Part of me thinks that if she had again worn her sea urchin hat last night the nation might have been intimidated enough to vote her through. The truth, though, is that Thomas’ repertoire of all-karaoke songs had to come back to bite her at some point. In the past few weeks she’s sung Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” Haddaway’s “What is Love?” and Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” (What? No “Everybody Dance Now”?) That was an untenable pattern for her to continue if she really wanted to be taken seriously. The amazing thing is how much unqualified support she received from the judges. Simon said her rendition of “Never Gonna Give You Up” on Wednesday night was like her “making the record.”
Thomas passive-aggressively said she was happy about being voted off because this would allow her to move on to “bigger and better things.” I wonder if, after America’s rejection, she’ll remove “Faith” from her fingernails? Personally, I think fingernail messages are pretty useless unless, like Sideshow Bob, you have “Luv” printed on the indices of one hand, with “Hat” on the other.
After Paige’s departure, we were treated to a performance by last season’s runner-up Josh Krajcik, proof that a non-winner of X Factor will fade into obscurity as quickly as…the winner of X Factor. Boom! Krajcik now looks like a schlubbier, scruffier version of Javier Bardem’s Silva from Skyfall. All he’s missing is blond hair dye and an ascot.
Then it was time to figure out who’d be singing for their survival. In the Top 5 were the following: the aforementioned Frey; Simon’s girl-group Fifth Harmony, who I suspect got a sympathy vote for their performance of “Stronger” Wednesday night after group member Ally shared that her grandfather had just died and was dedicating the performance to him; the sleeve-challenged trio Emblem3, who paid tribute to boy-band history with their performance Wednesday of the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer”; Carly Rose Sonenclar sang “Rolling in the Deep,” so she was pretty much assured the No. 1 spot; and Tate Stevens is Tate Stevens, so he’ll always make the cut.
That meant that Vino Alan and the previously-saved Diamond White were in the Bottom Two and had to get ready for their sing-off. The only time they had to prepare was during Alicia Keys’ 13,782nd rendition of “Girl on Fire.” I’ve long held a crush on Mrs. Swizz Beatz, so this was a welcome sonic sorbet if you ask me. Keys had her girl-power tableau lit like a Cirque Du Soleil show, complete with Japanese taiko drummers. And she was wearing an American Apparel-style rig that showed off her perfectly sculpted and bronzed shoulders and arms. Oh, yeah, she sounded pretty great too. My Mom overheard her performance in the next room and, not knowing it was Keys, said, “Wow, this contestant sounds so much better than anyone else on this show.” Then she walked in and saw who was on the TV: “Oh, wait. It’s Alicia Keys.” So that’s why!
Diamond is so cute, sparkly, and Gabby Douglas peppy, that it’s easy to forget what a solid singer she is. She killed her sing-off rendition of Beyoncé’s “I Was Here,” looking like she’d just put herself through a major cardio workout by the time it was all over. And screw L.A. Her performance of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” last night was fun and energetic.
Vino Alan, on the other hand, might as well have pressed our collective “snooze button” with his take on Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble,” easily the most overperformed singing-competition (and pet-adoption commercial) ditty of the past eight years. This was basically Alan’s strategy all along. The previous night he performed “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” the most overperformed song of all time. Also, Alan, with his cranial tats, is the scariest-looking guy to appear on TV since Kim Richards’ boyfriend on the last season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. This is a guy who seems to have a fedora for every occasion. (However, I was particularly pleased to see that Britney was wearing her trademark fedora again this week. That, even more than her midriff-baring poptart ensemble a couple weeks back, proved that Britney really is back, bitch.) Was there any question about who the judges would vote through?
L.A. showed support for his man Vino by choosing to send Diamond home, but all the rest, starting with Britney, voted to give Vino the boot. Diamond is safe to sparkle another week!
And here, my friends, are the rankings of the Top 6.
1. Carly Rose Sonenclar (number 1 again!)
2. Tate Stevens
3. Emblem 3
4. Fifth Harmony
5. CeCe Frey
6. Diamond White
We know you’re upset about Frey, but are you happy with the rankings otherwise? I will be spending the next week trying to purge my cerebral cortex of Paige Thomas' karaoke playlist. See you then!
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX]
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Batman might well be this generation's most epic superhero, thanks of course to Christopher Nolan's thrilling Dark Knight trilogy (which concludes on Friday, July 20), but there will always be a special place in America's heart for Superman. Although the 2006 venture Superman Returns didn't quite live up to snuff, the forthcoming Man of Steel (with Nolan on board as producer) might well prove a suitable reboot for the most iconic comic book hero in this nation's history. San Diego Comic-Con hit fans with the first footage from the developing movie, which stars Henry Cavill as the man himself, offering a small taste of the greatest import this planet has ever received from our dear departed friends at Krypton.
We flashback to Clark's youth. He's on a bus that goes over a bridge, but the bus is miraculously saved. "My son was in the bus. He saw what Clark did." says an of-screen voice. Young Clark looks shocked when he saves the children on the school bus.
The trailer cuts to young Clark discovering a spaceship in a barn (if Man of Steel sticks to mythology, baby Clark crashed landed on Earth in this thing). "It's not from this world, Clark," says Pa Kent. We see Clark holding a Superman "S" ring. "Either or are you."
Russell Crowe pops up as Jor-El, Superman's father, during our first look at the Fortress of Solitude. "What kind of man do you want to be?" he asks. This isn't a face in a crystal. Kal-El is standing right in front of him. A spiffy hologram? Either way, he's there showing his son the "S" emblem. From there, Clark walks out of Fortress of Solitude in full super costume. He breathes deeply, places his fists on to the ground, and takes off. Sonic boom! Superman is back.
The rest of the trailer is quick shot imagery accompanied by Nolan's signature trumpet fanfare. Amy Adams runs out as Lois Lane. Supermann emerges from a building completely covered in flames. Michael Shannon appears as Zod, with a menacing...gottee. Lots of explosions as a laser blasts down from the skies into the Earth (think Star Trek's Vulcan drill scene). A scene of Clark clutching a child with a storm behind him, evoking last year's Take Shelter. Superman and Zod clash in the sky, before Supes is thrown into a bank safe. Army soldiers point guns at Superman. Finally, we see Clark Kent stroll into the Daily Planet. He enters the elevator and places on the signature glasses.
Superman begins? Basically, and that's not a bad thing.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
You know, sometimes shit just happens. You take a wildly popular franchise of superheroes and movies, start listening to some really bad ideas and before you know it there are nipples on the Bat Suit, effectively killing 60 years of built up goodwill and great storylines. One bad film is all it can take to bury a great cinematic series. Six feet under. Pushing daisies. DEAD.
But then something amazing happens. A new kid comes around with fresh ideas and a reverence for what made a franchise so good in the first place. Plus, it’s been a few years since the last fiasco so maybe the audience will forgive and forget. All of a sudden you have a great film on your hands that the critics love, the audience will pay big money to see, and voila! The franchise is reborn! Healthier than it has ever been, like it was never dead in the first place! But what does a franchise savior have that previous entries lacked? Read on for the specifics.
X-Men: First Class
Cause of death: X-Men Origins: Wolverine. An unnecessary, thinly plotted and horribly scripted character prequel (Wolverine’s backstory was the focus of the first two movies, dammit!) with shitty CGI? DOA.
Savior: Matthew Vaughn and James McAvoy. Now THIS is a proper prequel. The X-Men are the most prolific comic book stories in existence. There are so many interesting tales to tell you would have to try very hard to mess it up (which totally happened). So how do you take so much potential and turn it into something tangible and real? You take the most interesting mutants, ones with true character histories, and then put them in the hands of a super talented filmmaker with success in the genre. Combine that with one hell of a cast (Jennifer Lawrence! Kevin Bacon!) and, yeah, the X-Men are back.
Also, January Jones' ample cleavage doesn’t hurt.
Cause of death: James Bond didn’t so much die (007 can’t die, remember?) as he became a clown. Sure Pierce Brosnan could spit out witty lines with the best of them, but no one took Denise Richards playing a character named Christmas Jones seriously.
Savior: Martin Campbell and Daniel Craig. When it was first announced that Daniel Craig would be playing England’s most famous spy, the outcry was enormous. He’s blond! He’s tiny! He’s not devilishly handsome enough! Then Casino Royale came out and everyone went “Oh. Never mind.” Sometimes when a franchise dies, in order to bring it back you have to invert everything that caused its demise. So Craig’s Bond doesn’t give a damn whether his martini is shaken or stirred - so what?! And forget the stylized stunts with the hero coming out as well-groomed as ever? Screw that! A sweaty, unpredictable Bond was exactly what the world wanted. Bond came back in a big way, baby.
Cause of Death: Batman and Robin. Nipple suits. Said it once before. Twice is enough.
Savior: Christopher Nolan. Holy shit, this is the textbook example of a franchise being saved. Too much has already been said on how horrible Batman and Robin is and the Oscars, billion dollar box office totals and career defining performances speak well enough for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Take away the camp, the tongue-in-cheekiness, the bloated action stars and replace it with grittiness, darkness and (most importantly) a competent filmmaker. Thanks to Nolan, Batman went from being big-screen joke to a serious character on par with one that Shakespeare would’ve come up with. That’s how you do it folks.
Cause of Death: Exhaustion. The original long-run of this classic British show ran from 1963 to 1989. That’s 26 years to fill with original programming and wildly changing tastes of consumers. Add in some executive meddling and a made-for-TV movie that failed on an epic level and it looked like the Doctor finally bit it.
Savior: Russel T. Davies and Steven Moffat. You can’t keep a good man down, but the Doctor? Well, he never really had a chance of staying down anyway. 2005 rolled around and BOOM; Doctor Who was back on the air and better than ever. Everything that brought the series down in the late 80’s was stripped away, leaving the Doctor war-torn but stripped down to his essentials (so no more Time Lords, but plenty of TARDIS and sonic screwdrivers). Throw in some great writing and the Doctor was fully regenerated. However, and this is a unique situation, Doctor Who was practically saved again without dying! It was super saved! Steven Moffat stepped into the head writer’s chair and elevated Who to a degree that few thought possible. He is still running the show and it’s honestly one of the best on television at the moment.
Image via here
Cause of Death: Exhaustion. Sherlock Holmes never really died so much as faded from popularity. Sure, he’s been featured in more movies, TV shows, books, comics and what have you than any other character, but the people just didn’t really care about him when the Millennium rolled around. So he wasn’t dead, but he was malnourished and forgotten, sitting in the corner trying to warm himself with a single match.
Savior: Guy Ritchie and Steven Moffat. Sherlock got a face-lift from two very different sources and suddenly everyone wanted a piece of the famed detective. First, Ritchie gave the uber-awesome Robert Downey Jr the keys to the flat on Baker St. and, really, that’s all you need to know. Sure, he fought in slo-mo, but he was as whip smart as ever and crimes were solved. Ah, but not everyone enjoys Victorian England. Steven Moffat (saving franchises again!) brought Holmes into the present and what do you know, Sherlock fits right in. Of course a good Sherlock series would be smart, but Moffat made his visually stunning and turned Watson into one bad-ass assistant thanks to Martin Freeman. Even after decades of hanging around solving crimes, these two showed that there was plenty of excitement left for the beekeeper.
Clearly lacking anything resembling a job or significant relationship, Star Wars fanatics began their vigil outside of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, six weeks prior to the movie's premiere. Variety reports that approximately half a dozen fans are already in line, guaranteeing them tickets to the initial public screening of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. These unwashed Star Wars faithful say they plan to pass the time talking about the sci-fi movie series with passers-by and talking to the media--from a distance, one hopes.
Well, shut my mouth and call me Sally: Apparently the tabloids are wrong! According to the Associated Press, Spider-Man co-stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are NOT an item. Vanity Fair, though, quotes the charismatic pair as being professionally in love with each other. Dunst praises Maguire's ability to cry on cue, and Maguire says that there's "no vanity" in Dunst's acting.
Looks like Russell Crowe may end up in court--but not for something the easily irritated Aussie was charged for. Rather, the Oscar-winning actor may be called to testify against three men accused of blackmailing him with a videotape that allegedly involves the thespian in a street fight, the BBC reports.
New mom Liz Hurley got more good news yesterday. Mere hours after giving birth, a man who has been accused of stalking the international beauty was remanded into custody, the BBC reports.
In the Biz
As if times for the beleaguered John Travolta couldn't get worse. Variety reports that a rumor is floating around that the Battlefield Earth and Domestic Disturbance star (duds, both) will split with his manger of 17 years, Jonathan Krane.
Miramax Films has grabbed the rights to the waning Pokemon film series away from Warner Bros. Although the first installment grossed more than $85 million, the third episode (and latest) brought in just $17 million. Still, according to a source quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Miramax shelled out a cool $1 million for the rights to the next two sequels in the continuing saga of the pocket monsters.
E.T. was a sonic boom the first time it was released, but mere signal noise this time around. Re-released 20 years after its debut--and after it grossed more than £500 million worldwide--Steven Spielberg's opus grossed a miniscule £4.6 million over Easter weekend (26 countries), Britain's Screen Daily reports.
John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich) has signed on to play the villain in the latest Rowan Atkinson comedy, Johnny English, a parody of spy films. Pop singer Natalie Imbruglia will join the boys in the film as a seductive temptress.
CBS is going back to the past one more time. Following last November's successful Carol Burnett Show special, next month the eye network will air a one-hour reunion with the cast from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Other networks are following CBS' lead: ABC is planning a Laverne & Shirley retrospective, Fox is looking into a Three's Company tribute and NBC is devoting the entire month of May to reunions and highlight shows as part of its 75th anniversary celebration.
Whew! R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck was acquitted of all charges stemming from an alleged fit of rage while drunk on an airplane last April. Buck's successful defense was comprised almost wholly by the claims "It wasn't me" and "Free tickets for any juror who finds me innocent."
How cute: Kelly Osbourne is following in daddy's shoes, sort of. The daughter of shock-rocker Ozzy Osbourne is covering Madonna's hit song "Papa Don't Preach" with the help of Incubus band members Mike Einziger and Jose Pasillas II, the AP reports. Kelly told MTV News she's worried about the single's success "because I don't think I'm a very good singer." Ah, like father, like daughter.
The spy business is dangerous, very dangerous. The AP reports that a stuntman on the set of Vin Diesel's latest movie, XXX, died while doing a parasailing stunt when he hit a bridge in Prague. XXX isn't the salacious movie described by its title; it's an urban spy thriller revolving around extreme-sports athletes.