In this week's Shameless, "Strangers on a Train," life continues to kick the s**t out of its characters.
It's Fiona and Robbie (and some public transit fingering) that coin the episode's title – she just can't shake him. He won't stop sending her texts, so she goes to his house to tell him off, which of course leads to another tryst. Another tryst that Mike just happens to interrupt – he knocks on the door, which sends Fiona scrambling to hide under the table. Robbie likes to play with fire, inviting Mike into the kitchen where he knows Fiona's hiding, but Mike manages to leave without being any the wiser. She rightly cusses Robbie a blue streak on her way out, but we get the feeling business is still unfinished. She puts it best herself as she seeks council from V: "What do you want me to say? That I'm self-destructive? That liars and thieves and addicts turn me on? That I don't know how to do a normal relationship?" Check, check, and check.
Lip's continuing to struggle, too: when a convoluted train of events (including soaking wet pants and a locked dorm room) leads to him being 6 minutes late to a midterm, his professor bars him from taking the test. It's the last straw – he smashes a few cars' windows, goes on a mad dash away from the cops (or rather "campus security"), hides under a table for a spell (Gallagher™), and hops on the 'L' back home. His first stop? The Milkoviches'. After he nonchalantly tries to knock Mandy up (oh, Lip), she socks him in the face, and he's off to the Alibi Room. While Mandy physically knocks some sense into him, Kev does so metaphorically: he reminds him what a college education could mean for him and his future – and it works. Next we know, Lip's waiting in the cold outside his professor's building, where he's finally able to show that humility that he's been trying so desperately to hide this whole time. His professor responds to this moment of honesty, and decides to give him a second chance. Are we finally going to see Lip on the upswing again? Maybe, but good things lack permanence in the universe of Shameless.
Oh, and poor, poor Debbie – she's still on a mission to lose her virginity. She goes to Mandy Milkovich for advice (seeing as she ran a girl over, she wouldn't be my first choice for a mentor, but oh well). Mandy tells her she has to prove to her boyfriend that she won't run to the cops screaming statutory rape, and that the best way to show him "she's cool" is to send him some suggestive selfies. Debs snaps a pic of one of Carl's dirty mags and texts it his way. Almost immediately, her boyfriend asks her over, but it's for a talk, not a tryst: he thinks she's too young (she most certainly is). But poor Debs is so mortified and hurt that she storms out – she even tries to proposition a young lad at the bowling alley (which leads to some spectacularly awkward dialogue in a dark bathroom stall), but she decides she can't go through with it (phew!).
And worst for last: Frank learns that even with a prospective donor, finding a pro bono doctor to perform the surgery will take years. And since he doesn't have years, it's time for desperate measures: an extreme injury will get him the insurance money he needs, so he enlists the help of Carl. When Carl learns it's a matter of life and death, he feeds his father some narcotics, and jumps on his leg: yep, broken in 6 places. But even with the insurance money on the way, it's not to be – Frank learns that Sammi's liver isn't a match, and as a result, he's so angry that he blurts out that she's his daughter. She's horrified, (Rightfully so: "You dry humped my thigh for half an hour yesterday!"), and literally throws him out of her trailer. But strangely, even after screaming at him to "GEEEEET. OUUUUUUUT!" she comes to meet him at the Alibi Room. I guess she decided that a despicable father is better than no father at all – a fact that the rest of the Gallaghers might contest. All in all, a frenetically solid episode – we're already looking forward to next week.
* Interesting that everyone had their counselor this episode – Fiona had V, Lip had Kev, and Debbie had Mandy.
* It's also worth mentioning that Mickey managed to put 6 Russian hookers out of work. Uh-oh.
* From the preview, it looks like Ian will be back next week (but what we really want is more Sheila!)
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise.
What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.
Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each.
And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Fall TV is exciting enough, but there are few shows whose triumphant returns we are anticipating as much as Parks and Recreation, the NBC bureaucratic mockumentary that I submit to you as the funniest comedy on TV. Period. (Anyone who cares to argue that should take the complaint over to the Pawnee City Hall.)
Well, it turns out that NBC knows just how much we love Parks, releasing today a string of new promos for Season 5 centered around the network's other major news point: the Olympics. The folks in Pawnee, Indiana are seemingly just as interested in major international athleticism as they are local politics.
Check out the promos below, which feature a Phelps-ian Andy (Chris Pratt), sausage-loving Ron (Nick Offerman) and a very spandex showdown between Ron and Tom (Aziz Ansari).
Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcSnetiker
'Parks and Rec' Producer and Writer on Emmys, Season 5 and the Magic of Ron Swanson
'Parks and Rec'-ap: Van, Go
'Parks and Rec'-ap: Vote or Die
DreamWorks' "Gladiator" should be victorious again on the box office battlefield this weekend.
With "Gladiator" still commanding a 30% first-choice tracking score among opening and released movies, there's little doubt the R-rated action adventure will keep a tight grip on the top spot.
If "Gladiator" slips 36% from its $34.8 million opening, its second weekend tribute will still be a handsome sum of about $22 million.
DreamWorks is distributing "Gladiator" domestically, while Universal is releasing it internationally. The two studios co-financed the film, which reportedly cost $103 million to make, and are 50-50 partners, sharing equally in its success.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Russell Crowe.
Warner Bros. and Franchise Pictures' PG-13 rated sci-fi action adventure "Battlefield Earth," opening at 3,307 theaters, should win the battle for second place. With its 19% overall first-choice tracking score, it's likely to gross about $10 million.
"It's a 22% first choice for males under 25 and a 29% first choice for males over 25," explains one studio executive. "Its awareness is 80% and the definite interest is 42% for males."
Directed by Roger Christian, it stars John Travolta, Barry Pepper and Forest Whitaker.
Universal's PG-13-rated comedy "Screwed," opening at 1,760 theaters, is a 12% first choice in the tracking. It is likely to be third with $7-8 million.
"It certainly did pop on the tracking," says an insider. "It's a 20% first choice for males. The awareness for males is 81% and the definite interest is 48% for males."
Written and directed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, it stars Norm MacDonald, David Chappelle and Danny DeVito.
Universal's "U-571" should float downstream two slots to fourth place in its fourth week. If the PG-13-rated World War II submarine drama falls 40%, it will gross about $5 million.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, "U-571" stars Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi.
New Line's PG-13-rated time thriller "Frequency" should tumble one peg to fifth place in its third week. If it slides 35%, it will do about $4 million.
Directed by Gregory Hoblit, it stars Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel.
Columbia's PG-13-rated youth appeal dance film "Center Stage," opening at 1,506 theaters, isn't likely to kick off in the Top Five given its modest 7% first-choice tracking.
"It's not showing on the tracking much at all," notes one studio executive.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner, it stars Amanda Schull, Zoe Saldana, Susan May Pratt, Peter Gallagher, Donna Murphy and Ethan Stiefel.
20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated drama "Where the Heart Is," a $9 million domestic pick up for Fox, was fifth with $5.1 million last week. Its third week should see it depart the Top Five.
Directed and produced by Matt Williams, it stars Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing and Joan Cusack.
Columbia's "I Dreamed Of Africa," which opened in ninth place last week to just $2.4 million, will be struggling to stay in the Top Ten in its second week.
"Africa," made on a mid-range budget of about $34 million, is directed by Hugh Hudson and stars Kim Basinger.
Filling out lower rungs: "Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" and "Love & Basketball."
On the limited release front: Miramax Films opens its R-rated contemporary version of "Hamlet" in New York and Los Angeles.
Directed by Michael Almereyda, it stars Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Sam Shepard, Diane Venora, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles.
Although this weekend won't set any records, insiders are happy because they anticipate a strong summer season spread around among most of the major studios. That's exactly the sort of summer theater owners enjoy most since it keeps their multiplexes filled with moviegoers, who are certain to buy their share of popcorn, candy and soda.
This summer should see business spread around among many mid-sized hits rather than concentrated, as it was last summer, in two mega-hits -- Fox and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace" and New Line's "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." Together, the two sequels did about $626 million in ticket sales through Labor Day weekend.
This summer there already are very high hopes for Paramount's "Mission: Impossible 2," which will own Memorial Day weekend. Although "M: I-2" doesn't arrive until May 24, it's already an enviable 23% first choice in the tracking. The original "Mission: Impossible" opened May 22, 1996, and grossed $180.9 million domestically, $284 million internationally -- for a worldwide total of $464.9 million.
Memorial Day weekend hits don't always wind up as the summer's biggest grossing films. The original "Mission," for example, was out-grossed by "Twister," which opened nearly two weeks earlier on May 10, 1996, and went on to gross $241.7 million domestically, $254 million internationally -- for a worldwide cume of $495.7 million.
Hollywood has found over the years that movies opening in mid-June or for July Fourth weekend often are the ones that rewrite the record books.
For instance, "Jurassic Park" opened June 11, 1993, and did $357 million domestically. "Independence Day" opened July 3, 1996, and did $306.2 million domestically. "The Lion King" arrived June 15, 1994, and did $312.8 million domestically. "Forrest Gump" opened July 6, 1994, and did $329.7 million domestically. "Men In Black" opened July 2, 1997, and did $250.1 million domestically. "Ghost" appeared July 13, 1990, and did $217.6 million domestically.
Looking beyond "M: I-2," at least eight other summer releases are already shaping up as potentially big box office contenders. Those generating the best buzz at this early point - listed in order of their release dates - include:
* Buena Vista/Disney's computer-animated family film "Dinosaur," which reportedly cost $150 million-plus to make (May 19).
* 20th Century Fox's R-rated comedy "Me, Myself & Irene," directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly ("There's Something About Mary") and starring Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger (June 23).
* Columbia's action-adventure "The Patriot," set during the Revolutionary War, directed by Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day") and starring Mel Gibson (June 28), which reportedly cost about $100 million to make.
* Warner Bros.' Action-adventure "The Perfect Storm," directed by Wolfgang Petersen ("Air Force One") and starring George Clooney, which reportedly cost about $120 million to make (June 30).
* 20th Century Fox's live-action fantasy-adventure "X-Men," based on the best-selling comic book series, directed by Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects") and starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ray Park and Anna Paquin (July 14).
* DreamWorks' fantasy thriller "What Lies Beneath," directed by Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") and starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer (July 21).
* Universal and Imagine Entertainment's comedy sequel "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," directed by Peter Seagal ("Tommy Boy") and starring Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Larry Miller and John Ales (July 28).
* 20th Century Fox's comedy remake "Bedazzled," directed by Harold Ramis ("Groundhog Day") and starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, a potential summer sleeper (Aug. 11).