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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Elizabeth Taylor is officially the highest earning dead celebrity of 2012, according to Forbes' annual list. The iconic actress, who suffered heart failure at the age of 79 last March, has earned $210 million this past year. That is $45 million more than the highest paid living celeb, Oprah Winfrey.
Taylor beat out Michael Jackson for the top spot, owed in part to her record-breaking Christie’s auction, which brought in $184 million by selling her jewelry, costumes, and art work, including an 1889 Van Gogh painting that sold for $16 million. Her estate (which gives a portion of her earnings to her AIDS Foundation) also profited from her White Diamonds perfume sales and from her films.
The king of pop raked in $145 million last year — more than any living artist — and would have snagged the top spot had it not been for Taylor's auctions earnings.
Forbes' list is compiled from earnings between October 2011 and October 2012. Forbes only looks at the money that comes into each estate; how the estate deals with the money is not taken into account. Check out the full list below:
1. Elizabeth Taylor: $210 million
2. Michael Jackson: $145 million
3. Elvis Presley: $55 million
4. Charles Schulz: $37 million
5. Bob Marley: $17 million
6. John Lennon: $12 million
7. Marilyn Monroe: $10 million
7. Albert Einstein: $10 million
9. Theodor Geisel: $9 million
10. Steve McQueen: $8 million
10. Bettie Page: $8 million
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It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
After giving us their list of the big guys yesterday, the Directors’ Guild filled out the remaining nominations today with their top TV directors. For the most part, all the expected parties are present (Mad Men, Lost, Modern Family, and Glee season one - back when it was still fantastic), with a few surprises like the 30 Rock “Live Show” episode – really? Of course, it should come as no surprise that HBO once again dominates the list of nominees (they have a whole category to themselves) and AMC has a decent showing considering it only has a handful of programming out there.
Along with the already announced best feature nominations, these lucky directors will find out their fates at the 63rd Annual DGA Awards Dinner on Jan. 29 in Hollywood.
And the nominees are…
Movies for Television and Mini-Series
• Mick Jackson, Temple Grandin (HBO)
• Barry Levinson, You Don’t Know Jack (HBO)
• David Nutter and Jeremy Podeswa, The Pacific, “Basilone” (HBO)
• Jeremy Podeswa, The Pacific, “Home” (HBO)
• Tim Van Patten, The Pacific, “Okinawa” (HBO)
• Jack Bender, Lost, “The End, Part 1 & 2” (ABC)
• Allen Coulter, Boardwalk Empire, “Paris Green” (HBO)
• Frank Darabont, The Walking Dead, “Days Gone Bye” (Pilot) (AMC)
• Jennifer Getzinger, Mad Men, “The Suitcase” (AMC)
• Martin Scorsese, Boardwalk Empire, “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO)
• Steve Levitan, Modern Family, “Hawaii” (ABC)
• Beth McCarthy Miller, 30 Rock, “Live Show” (NBC)
• Ryan Murphy, Glee, “The Power of Madonna” (FOX)
• David Nutter, Entourage, “Lose Yourself” (HBO)
• Michael Spiller, Modern Family, “Halloween” (ABC)
• Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live With Betty White (NBC)
• Linda Mendoza, Paul McCartney: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in Performance at The White House (PBS)
• John C. Moffitt, Bill Maher “…But I’m Not Wrong” (HBO)
• Chuck O’Neill, Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (Comedy Central)
• Glenn Weiss, 64th Annual Tony Awards (CBS)
• Hisham Abed, The Hills, “Episode #601” (MTV)
• Eyten Keller, The Next Iron Chef, “Episode #301” (Food Network)
• Bryan O’Donnell, Private Chefs of Beverly Hills: Challah Back (Food Network)
• Brian Smith, Master Chef, “Episode #103” (FOX)
• Bertram Van Munster, The Amazing Race, “I Think We’re Fighting The Germans, Right?” (CBS)
For the complete list, including Daytime Serials and Commercial directors, check out the link below.
Source: Hollywood Reporter
So last night, the most anticipated new show of the year, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, had its big debut. The premiere was probably viewed by a gajillion people around the globe…and for good reason. A collaboration of the likes of Martin Scorsese, Terrence Winter, Mark Wahlberg and Steve Buscemi doesn’t just happen everyday, so when those popular names (along with a host of others) grace the small screen in succession, audiences pay attention. Just how good was it? Read on to find out.
The first thing that you should know is that, to the dismay of many fans, Mr. Wahlberg and Mr. Scorsese will not be contributing to each and every episode of the Prohibition-era crime drama. Wahlberg’s credit is limited to just the pilot while Scorsese, who directed the lovely inaugural entry, will serve as executive producer – which means he gets to sit back, review the dailies and reflect on his significant influence on the gangster genre while offering occasional creative pointers. No matter: with many of the producers of The Sopranos on board full time, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about the continuity of quality in this soon-to-be-classic television experience.
Now, onto the show. Boardwalk Empire begins on a gloomy night in Atlantic City in 1920, on the eve of Prohibition being mandated by the United States government. We meet Nucky Thompson, the sly city treasurer who moonlights as a bootlegger, at a women’s group rally where he is approached by a desperate housewife, as well as Jimmy Darmody, one of presumably many henchmen on his payroll. Jimmy is a WWI veteran with academic promise and little-to-no patience for the criminal hierarchy that has governed organized crime for decades. He’s got a bum leg, a family to feed and no time to waste, so when he meets the eager-to-earn Al Capone, in town with his employer on business, a profitable plan formulates.
Meanwhile, we follow Nucky as he navigates the town and conducts business. Part politician/peace-keeper, Thompson helps maintain order in the City By The Sea with the help of local enforcement (led by his brother Eli), but that’s just his public persona. When the sun goes down and the Boardwalk lights up each night, Nucky assumes the role of overlord of the underworld: Pimp, playboy, and prohibition-profiteer. But pressures from rival gangsters begin to mount and he’s forced to entertain New York mobsters like Lucky Luciano and Arnold Rothstein, who take Thompson for a financial ride. Nucky recovers from the blow, but knows that these New Yawkas are going to be a problem. He also continues to feel the effects of his charity, as Kelly MacDonald’s abused housewife has a recurring presence throughout the pilot. She brings out the “best” in Nucky, who is sympathetic to her situation; so sympathetic that he makes it his personal mission to ensure that she will not suffer another blackeye at the hands of her alcoholic husband.
All of this character definition is taking place while a sizable heist is going down. Nucky’s big-money shipment of alcohol is stolen at gun-point by Jimmy and Al, who proceed to execute all of the carriers after a deer scares the bejeezus out of Capone. This leads to Nucky’s justifiable panic attack and temporary moment of relief/astonishment when he learns that Jimmy is responsible for the stick-up. Though he’s compensated, he learns that there’s ultimately no one that he can trust in Atlantic City and, as it’s unofficial ruler, he’ll have to be smarter, faster and more ruthless than ever if he wants to stay on top.
When I first heard about Boardwalk Empire, I was enamored with excitement. The creative talent is a virtual dream team of filmmakers and the pilot did not disappoint. Martin Scorsese’s masterful direction buoyed a relatively formulaic opening episode. The production design was perhaps my favorite element in the program; the massive Boardwalk set, erected on the shores of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, NY are some of the most period accurate that I’ve ever seen on television and many of Marty’s cinematic trademarks made it onto the screen, making the pilot especially nostalgic for film buffs like myself.
Of course, the technical components of the show won’t likely overshadow the phenomenal acting that has become a hallmark of HBO’s original programming. Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg and (especially) Stephen Graham bring gritty authenticity to the series; we haven’t seen visceral performances like these since the heydays of Tony Soprano & Co. My only concern regarding the future of Boardwalk Empire lies in the creative fatigue department. Can Scorsese and Winter, along with series directors/contributors Tim Van Patten, Allen Coulter and others keep up with the high level of quality that HBO and fans have set? Further, with a reported budget of $30 million on the pilot, will Boardwalk Empire suffer the same financial fate as HBO’s Rome, a show with a large audience but not enough money to maintain it’s cost? Time will tell. Check back on Monday for next week’s recap of Boardwalk Empire.