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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Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Brolin and Driver to wed
Jews are angry
Smile, Mrs. Dirty Harry
Moore birthday bash
Pryor turns street
Beastie Boys are back
Brando takes ill
Brolin and Driver to wed
Actor Josh Brolin (Hollowman, The Mod Squad) and actress Minnie Driver (Return To Me, Good Will Hunting) are engaged to be wed, People magazine reports.
This is the third wedding for Brolin, who was married previously to Deborah Adair. Brolin's first wife, Jane, died in 1995. Brolin has two children, Trevor, 12, and Eden, 8.
This will be the first trip down the aisle for Driver, who previously dated Matt Damon and John Cusack.
Brolin -- son of famed actor James Brolin and stepson of Barbra Streisand -- and Driver became romantically involved when they costarred in Slow Burn.
"It's obvious they are very much in love," Danny McKeever, Brolin's auto-racing instructor, told reporters.
No wedding date has been set yet, People reported.
Comic strip "BC" defames Jews, says Jewish group
The Simon Weisenthal Center, a nonprofit Jewish civil rights organization, is asking newspapers that carry the syndicated comic strip BC not to run Sunday's cartoon.
The strip portrays a Menorah, a Jewish symbol, in the first panel, under a quote by Jesus: "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do." Succeeding panels then show the Menorah morphing into a cross, with more of Jesus' last words atop each panel. The final panel's quote, "Do this in remembrance of me," frames a picture of a cave, presumably Jesus' final resting place.
The founder and director of the Weisenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Heir, said that newspapers have a duty not to run the strip, as it describes Judaism being "subsumed" or encompassed by Christianity, Reuters reported. The strip "will promote hatred rather than tolerance and diversity," Heir said.
A statement released by Johnny Hart, creator of BC, defends his work, saying that during a week that is holy for both Christians and Jews this year, he was trying to honor both.
The Simon Weisenthal Center, located in Los Angeles, is named in memory of Nazi hunter Simon Weisenthal.
Dirty Harry's wife on "Camera"
Smile, you're on Candid Camera.
Dina Ruiz Eastwood, wife of Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, will be saying that more often, having joined Candid Camera's team as the show's co-host.
Starting with the new fall season, Eastwood will co-anchor the show with Peter Funt, The Associated Press reports. Eastwood will take over for Suzanne Sommers, former star of Three's Company.
The Eastwoods, who appeared together in True Crime, have been married since 1996. Prior to taking her new gig as Camera's co-host, Eastwood was a news anchor for KSBW-TV (NBC) in Salinas, Calif. Prior to taking the gig as Camera's co-host, Eastwood was a news anchor for KSBW-TV (NBC) in Salinas, Calif.
Candid Camera airs Sunday evenings on Pax TV.
Former "Survivor" contestant gives deposition
America hasn't heard the last from the first season's cast members of the TV hit Survivor.
As part of ex-cast member Stacy Stillman's $70,000 lawsuit against CBS, fellow South Pacific islander Dirk Been delivered a videotaped deposition -- six hours in length -- to lawyers, according to a report by People magazine. Been's deposition will remain under wraps due to confidentiality agreements that each cast member signs before taping begins.
Stillman contends that the TV series rigged the vote that kicked her off the island. Stillman reportedly asked the questions during Been's deposition.
"We're very pleased with what Dirk said today," Donald Yates, Stillman's lawyer, told the New York Post.
For its part, CBS filed a counter-suit against Stillman, claiming she broke her nondisclosure agreement when she brought her suit against Survivor last February.
Moore to celebrate birthday with TV bash
To celebrate Dudley Moore's 66th birthday, his family and friends are throwing him a small party -- at Carnegie Hall.
Michael Caine and Julie Andrews will chair the televised event, An All-Star Tribute To Dudley Moore, People magazine reports. Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Walters, Amy Irving, Lauren Bacall, Eric Idle, Chevy Chase, Jimmy Fallon and Bo Derek are scheduled to give praise in person, while Robin Williams and John Cleese have taped video messages for Moore.
Dudley Moore, star of such films as 10, Arthur, and the original Bedazzled, suffers from a rare brain disorder called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a relative of Parkinson's disease. The ailment has severely limited Moore's ability to work as Moore is confined to his wheelchair. Moore has curtailed his public appearances.
Net proceeds from the evening go to two of Moore's pet charities, Music for All Seasons and the Dudley Moore Research Fund for PSP. The tribute will take place on Monday.
Pryor's name to headline street sign in Illinois
Peoria, Ill., will try for the second time to honor hometown hero, comedian Richard Pryor, USA Today reports.
Peoria City Council members rejected on March 27 the renaming of South Sheridan Street in honor of Pryor, but that apparently did not sit well with certain council members. The proposal has reappeared on the docket, and the council will once again vote on the matter in two weeks.
Councilman Eric Turner said that the city has received a black eye for failing to honor Pryor. According to Turner, he and Pryor were childhood friends while growing up on the south side of Peoria.
Pryor is a controversial choice for such an honor, given his past penchant for profanity-filled routines and his well-documented battles with drugs. In 1980, Pryor nearly killed himself accidentally in a fire related to his freebasing cocaine.
Pryor, currently living in California, suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.
Beastie Boys' Grand Royal reappears
Out of print since 1997, the Beastie Boys' cult magazine Grand Royal has been licensed by Harper Collins to reappear in the guise of a coffee-table book. The book would comprise the best of the old magazines and incorporate fresh new articles, according to a story filed by online portal Yahoo!
The Beastie Boys produced just six editions of Grand Royal, from 1993 to 1997, which were all instant hits. The magazine, which linked skateboarding and politics and music and pop culture, sold out three of the six print runs. The magazine featured articles with then-obscure musicians, such as a Kid Rock interview in the fourth edition.
According to the report, Josh Behar, a senior editor at Harper Collins, said that the Beastie Boys "really love this project. Their dedication is amazing." Beastie Boy Mike D is working closely with Behar to finish the book. The book is scheduled to appear in bookstores in April 2002.
Actor Steve Buscemi reportedly knifed in fight
Actor Steve Buscemi has flown from the North Carolina set of Domestic Disturbance to his home in New York to recover from knife wounds, according to The Associated Press.
Police arrested a local man and will charge him for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill after allegedly stabbed Buscemi in the head, throat, and arms, AP said. Buscemi was released from a local hospital and flew home to recuperate.
The fight happened early Thursday at the Firebelly Lounge, a local bar, in Wilmington, N.C.
Domestic Disturbance costar Vince Vaughn also was arrested for his alleged involvement in the fight. AP said Vaughn was trying to come to the aid of Buscemi.
Buscemi's agents, the William Morris Agency, said they had no information at this time. Domestic Disturbance's studio, Paramount Pictures, refused to comment.
John Travolta and Teri Polo also star in the film.
Marlon Brando hospitalized
Screen legend Marlon Brando, 77, has reportedly been hospitalized for pneumonia, days before he was due to shoot the opening scene for the upcoming comedy Scary Movie 2 this week.
The actor is said to be undergoing treatment at a Los Angeles-area hospital. Neither Brando's agent, Dimension Films nor Scary Movie 2 producer Brillstein-Grey Entertainment have commented on details about his illness, or how long he is expected to be in the hospital.
The filmmakers still want Brandon to be in the film and, even though production wraps this month, his scenes could still be filmed after he recovers, according to Variety.
Scary Movie 2 is the sequel to last year's summer blockbuster directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. It costars Chris Elliot, Tim Curry, Tori Spelling and Andy Richter.
The sequel, also directed by Wayans, is due in theaters for the July 4 holiday weekend.
Brando's next project is working alongside Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton in the crime drama The Score.