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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The animated Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas has all the great adventure of the story wrapped up in a sappy little package for the kiddies. Taken from the ancient tales of the Arabian Nights Sinbad is a rogue who cares only about what is in his and his crew's best interest--and little else. As the film begins he unsuccessfully tries to steal the Book of Peace--which keeps order in the world--from his childhood best friend Proteus the Prince of Syracuse who is sailing to the city to return the sacred book. Although the two are estranged it's clear they still have a kinship. When the Book of Peace is actually stolen by Eris the goddess of chaos she frames Sinbad for the theft. Proteus stands up for his friend and makes the council give Sinbad one chance to find and return the precious book or Proteus will die on his behalf. Disbelieving the threat the pirate decides to blow the whole thing off but Proteus' beautiful betrothed Marina who has stowed away on Sinbad's ship has other plans. Marina has Sinbad's crew on her side and it could turn mutinous if the guy doesn't fulfill the mission. OK so he'll go get the book. Eris doesn't make it easy for our reluctant hero--dispatching both monstrous creatures and the elements to do battle along the way. But ultimately the brave Sinbad learns a few life lessons falls in love and wins out by following his heart. Aww!
See what a little success in the animated world can get you? These days an animated film can demand the attention of any A-list actor to provide the voices not just your occasional Robin Williams. We have Finding Nemo with the voices of Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres and now Sinbad which attracted huge names such as Brad Pitt (Sinbad) Catherine Zeta-Jones (Marina) Michelle Pfeiffer (Eris) and Joseph Fiennes (Proteus). It could also be the fact DreamWorks' animation king Jeffrey Katzenberg has the clout to rope them all in. Pitt as Sinbad is roguishly clever infusing the pirate with the requisite amount mischievousness and rebellion while Zeta-Jones provides the adventurous Marina with the right amount of bravado and vulnerability. Fiennes as the stiff but honorable Proteus is fine but you can tell right away who has the most fun with her character; Pfeiffer's Eris is a pure delight in sound as well as sight. She is able to take her Catwoman persona from Batman Returns and elevate it to a well celestial level. In the supporting roles Dennis Haysbert does a nice job as Sinbad's right-hand man Kale as does Adriano Giannini the son of legendary actor Giancarlo Giannini as the ship's lookout Rat. Kudos all around for a job well done.
As a self-proclaimed fan of those cheesy 1970s Sinbad movies including The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger--where the stop-motion special effects of wizard Ray Harryhausen made it all worthwhile--the idea of an animated version of Sinbad seems perfectly fitted for the genre. Now the mythical creatures could be fully realized in vivid Technicolor where the DreamWorks' animators spare no expense in providing their own visions of things such as sirens sea monsters and giant birds of prey. The artwork for Eris is a particular stroke of genius with the flowing black hair and beautifully evil features; the film definitely comes alive when she is onscreen. As well the action sequences are as exciting as any car chase or gun battle you'll see in a live-action film. The drawback for the adults is the film's slightly schmaltzy story about friendship and of course true love. It's not entirely clear why computer-animated films such as Shrek and Finding Nemo are now becoming the only animated films that appeal to everyone adults and kids alike. It used to be traditional hand-drawn classics such as The Little Mermaid and The Lion King did the trick but now it seems animated films need only provide spectacular visuals--without a great story and snappy dialogue to back them up.
Two movies opened nationwide and battled for box office booty this weekend, but in the end, as the pirates sharpened their swords, the gentlemen walked the plank.
The swashbuckling tale Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl sailed away with a $46.4 million* booty over the weekend. Since its release July 9, Pirates has tallied $70.4 million.
But not even Allan Quartemain and his legion of historic superheroes could help Fox's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen muster up a defense against Disney's gang of mutinous pirates. The literary action thriller traipsed away with a rather ordinary $23.2 million.
Pirates, which is based on a popular Disneyland attraction, took in an estimated $23.8 million in its first two days in theaters and didn't lose momentum through the weekend.
"It amazes us," Disney Film distribution chief Chuck Viane told Reuters Friday. "Johnny (Depp) is so fabulous. This movie plays great, and that is why you jump out on a Wednesday and go see it."
Last week's box office topper, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, dropped to third place with $19.6 million, followed by Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde, which settled in fourth position with $12 million. The summer season's mainstay movie, the animated fish tale Finding Nemo, rounded out the Top Five with $8.2 million.
Lead by Pirates, this weekend was the first up weekend after four down weekends in a row. The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an estimated $135.9 million, up 3.4 percent from the same weekend last year.
THE TOP TEN
Buena Vista Pictures' PG-13 rated fantasy actioner Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl bowed in first place at the box office this weekend with an ESTIMATED $46.4 million at 3,269 theaters. Its $14,194 per theater average was the highest of any film playing this weekend. Its five-day cume is $70.4 million.
The film, based on a Disney theme park attraction, centers on the roguish yet charming pirate who comes to the rescue of a young woman and teams up with the blacksmith who loves her to exact revenge on his mutinous shipmates.
Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 rated period thriller The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen debuted in second place with an ESTIMATED $23.2 million at 3,002 theaters with a $7,745 per theater average.
Set at the start of the Industrial Age, a league of extraordinary gentlemen, a collection of literary figures with superpowers, must come together to stop an evil force from starting a war between the world's nations.
Directed by Stephen Norrington, it stars Sean Connery, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Tony Curran, Stuart Townsend, Shane West and Jason Flemyng.
Warner Bros.' R rated Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines dropped two notches to third place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $19.6 million (-55%) at 3,504 theaters (unchanged; $5,598 per theater). Its cume is approximately $110.4 million.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken.
MGM's PG-13 rated Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde fell two rungs to fourth spot in its second week with an ESTIMATED $12 million (-46%) at 3,375 theaters (+25 theaters; $3,556 per theater). Its cume is approximately $62.8 million.
Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, it stars Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, Regina King, Bob Newhart and Jennifer Coolidge.
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer-animated feature Finding Nemo fell only one spot in its seventh week to round out the Top Five with an ESTIMATED $8.2 million (-29%) at 2,643 theaters (-259 theaters; $3,103 per theater). Its cume is approximately $290.8 million and is on the way to surpassing the $300 million mark.
Directed and co-written by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton, it features the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe and Brad Garrett.
Sony Picture's PG-13 rated Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle dropped three places to sixth in its third week with an ESTIMATED $7.3 million (-48%) at 3,202 theaters (-283 theaters; $2,280 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.6 million.
Directed by McG, it stars Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Bernie Mac.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
DreamWorks' PG rated animated feature Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas jumped a notch to sixth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $4.6 million at 3,086 theaters (unchanged; $1,491 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.1 million.
Directed by Patrick Gilmore and Tim Johnson, it features the voices of Brad Pitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Joseph Fiennes.
Fox Searchlight's R rated sci-fi thriller 28 Days Later dropped one place to eighth in its third week with an ESTIMATED $4.2 million (-29%) at 1,396 theaters (+78 theaters; $3,044 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.4 million.
Directed by Danny Boyle, it stars Cillian Murphy, Naomi Harris, Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated The Hulk plummeted four places to No. 9 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $3.7 million (-55%) at 2,575 theaters (-716 theaters, $1,437 per theater). Its cume is approximately $124.7million.
Directed by Ang Lee, it stars Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott and Nick Nolte.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated actioner The Italian Job moved two places to tenth in its seventh week with an ESTIMATED $2.7 million (-34%) at 1,364 theaters (-220 theaters; $1,364 per theater). Its cume is approximately $88.8 million.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Mos Def and Edward Norton.
Paramount Classics' PG-13 rated drama Northfork opened in five theaters with an ESTIMATED $61,364 with a strong $12,273 per theater average.
Set in 1955, the film centers on the town of Northfork, which is about to be flooded to make way for a new hydroelectric project. A team of six trenchcoated men has been assigned to remove the last few stragglers before its Heartland houses will be swept away.
Directed by Michael Polish, it stars James Woods, Nick Nolte, Daryl Hannah and Anthony Edwards.
Sony Picture Classics' PG-13 rated romantic drama Cuckoo opened in six theaters with an ESTIMATED $17,209 and a $2,868 per theater average.
The film revolves around a Russian idealist, a Finish college student and a Swedish peasant woman who find themselves confined to a tiny backwoods hut near the end of WWII. Unable to speak each other's language, the two men begin to fall in love with the woman and are forced to let their body language speak for them.
Directed by Alexander Rogozhkin, it stars Anni-Kristina Juuso, Wille Happsalo and Viktor Bychkov.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $135.9 million, up 7.28 percent from last week's take of $126 million. The Top 12 films were also up from the same weekend last year they grossed $131.5 million.
Last year, Sony's PG-13 rated Men in Black II was No. 1 at the box office in its second week with $24.4 million at 3,611 theaters (+54 theaters; $6,760 per theater); Dreamwork's R rated Road to Perdition bowed to No. 2 with $22 million at 1,797 theaters ($12,287 per theater), while Buena Vista's PG-13 rated fantasy actioner Reign of Fire debuted in third place with $15.6 million at 2,629 theaters ($5,946 per theater).