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 Fosters is the latest in ABC Family’s teen-oriented family dramas. ABC Family has strived to add more realism and positive representations of families and teenagers on shows like Switched at Birth and the suspense series Pretty Little Liars. The Fosters goes even further by showcasing a non-traditional family with multi-racial and LGBT family members. It also challenges previous representations of the foster system.
Callie Jacob (Maia Mitchell) gets out of juvenile hall and needs a place to stay. The foster system places her with Steff (Teri Polo) and Lena Foster (Sherri Saum). They are lesbian partners with three children of their own. They have adopted twins Jesus (Jake T. Austin) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez). Steff also has a son, Brandon (David Lambert), from her previous marriage to Mike Foster (Danny Nucci). Tensions rise as Callie adjusts to her new surroundings and still tries to care for her brother Jude (Hayden Byerly). There’s also tension when Steff and Mike are assigned to be partners on the police force.
Created by Brad Bredeweg and Peter Paige (Queer as Folk) and executive produced by Jennifer Lopez, this series is not only completely addictive but it’s also heartfelt and emotional. Each episode explores the challenges of this non-traditional family, while still reaffirming their connection. Lena tells one of the children, "DNA doesn't make a family. Love does." This series is a testament to the unsung heroes in the foster system and the parents that adopt American orphans and children from broken homes. Most media representations focus on the horror stories but it’s nice to believe that there are families offering homes to disenfranchised youth.
The series is also a great blend of positive representations of multiple ethnicities and sexualities. Lena is bi-racial and the series explores her racial identity and complex relationship with her mother. The two twins are Latino and have ties to their Latin heritage despite being adopted. The show also doesn’t feel heavy handed in its portrayal of LGBT characters and storylines. Steff was married and had a son but she fell in love with her partner Lena and together they formed a family. The series explores her relationship with her parents and ex-husband. The series also introduces certain juvenile experimentation with the character of Jude. He tried on his mother’s clothes, he wears nail polish, and he likes a boy at school. His parents on the show, as well as the show’s writers, don’t judge this or play this up. Instead, they just portray it as natural.
The Fosters is inspiring. It brings together drama and heartfelt emotion while still maintaining a positive view of families and balanced and positive portrayals of ethnic and sexual minority groups. Luckily, episodes are available on Netflix and Hulu and the new season returns January 13.
What do you get when a small-time crook gets whacked at the exact same time his baby boy’s born? Yes yet another crime story that’s driven by a quest for vengeance. A straight-A student living in a swanky Connecticut suburb Wilson De Leon Jr. (Rick Gonzalez) knows nothing about his late father. Nor for that fact does he ever wonder why his widowed mother Millie (Wanda De Jesus) insists on moving his family from one town to another at a moment’s notice. Unbeknownst to Wilson and his younger brother Millie’s been on the run since her husband died a bloody death for reasons left unsaid until Illegal Tender’s last bullet is fired. After she’s spotted by one of her pursuers Millie rushes home to pack her family’s bags. Only this time Wilson wants to know what’s going on. Then he decides to stand his ground. Which he does—at least until he comes to his senses and realizes that he’s putting himself and his girlfriend (Dania Ramirez) in harm’s way. Still Wilson’s not ready to let his loved ones be terrorized forever. Despite Millie’s protests Wilson heads off to Puerto Rico to take care of matters once and for all. And Illegal Tender quickly goes from vaguely interesting to boneheaded as soon as Wilson arrives in Puerto Rico. Oh and producer John Singleton deserves to be reprimanded for allowing writer/director Franc Reyes to rip off his own revenge saga Four Brothers. Guess Singleton thought what worked once would work again. How wrong he is. One look at Rick Gonzalez (Coach Carter) and it’s hard to believe he could punch a timecard let alone a thug willing to snap the skinny kid in two. He makes Shia LaBeouf look like Harrison Ford. Then again Gonzalez’s playing a scrawny little momma’s boy who’s all brains and no brawn—at least until Millie’s past catches up with her. So it makes no difference that Gonzalez isn’t physically imposing. The problem is that Gonzalez never comes across as book smart as his character is supposed be. Nor does he display much in the way of street smarts especially when Wilson starts to get his hands dirty. It hardly comes as a surprise to learn that Wilson never questioned how his mother always had huge amounts of cash at her disposal even though she rarely held down a job. And thanks to Gonzalez you never get the sense that Wilson’s ever one step ahead of his father’s killers. On the other hand the tough-as-nails Wanda De Jesus is such a commanding presence that you know immediately she’s capable of breaking the neck of anyone who tries to harm her family. If Quentin Tarantino ever needs another no-nonsense cougar to bust a few skulls he should look no further than De Jesus. Dania Ramirez (The Sopranos) also looks like she could beat the snot out of Gonzalez but all she gets to do is express concern for Wilson’s safety. In his film debut Puerto Rican rapper Tego Calderón lends a little edge to the proceedings as a gangster who stands between Wilson and his quarry. Illegal Tender wants us to believe that Wilson has what it takes to go all Four Brothers on his father’s killers. That would be fine if Illegal Tender took its time transforming Wilson from naïve college student to angel of vengeance. Instead it’s taken for granted that Wilson’s his father’s son that all it takes is a couple of practice shots at some glass bottles to turn a boy into a man. Even then Wilson’s not much of a threat to anyone. This could be overlooked if director Franc Reyes at least gave Illegal Tender some vim and vigor. Instead Illegal Tender lacks urgency even when Millie and her family are fleeing for their lives. Everything falls apart once Reyes unnecessarily shifts the action to Puerto Rico. You expect Wilson to at least jump a few hurdles in his bid to find his father’s killers. But that’s not the case. Doors open quickly and easily for Wilson. Where’s the suspense in that? The motive behind the murder is not revealed until the end but it only will make you shrug your shoulders in apathy. Also after raising the moral implications of living off illegal gains Reyes conveniently brushes aside such a weighty matter in favor of sending mother and son into battle together. Yes Illegal Tender is filled with such warmhearted Mommy and Me moments of bonding. “Sometimes you’ve got to play the only chips you’ve got ” Wilson’s father says minutes before he’s killed. With Illegal Tender Reyes makes a real bad bet with the precious few chips he has and comes up a big loser.