Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
For whatever reason, there's been a flood of sword and sandal epics charging toward the screen. But Brett Ratner's Hercules, already the second film starring the mythical demi-god to be released this year, is the best of the lot. Unsurprisingly, this feature lacks the polish and ambition of the year's weightier blockbusters like Captain America: The Winter Soldier or the sublime Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. But what it lacks in ambition, it makes up for in pure thrills.
It's been years since Hercules completed his mythical labors, and stories of his gallantry have spread far across Greece, which benefits Herc and his merry band of mercenaries just fine since a résumé that can double as a child's bedtime story is worth its weight in gold. But when King Cotys of Thrace (John Hurt) enlists Hercules to end a rebellion that threatens to send his city into chaos, a quest that has the untrained Thracian soldiers whispering nervously of monsters, beasts, and an evil sorcerer, the mighty son of Zeus might not have the gods on his side.
Who knew a film by Brett Ratner and starring Dwayne Johnson would have more than two brain cells to mush together? Hercules boasts a narrative that's all about the power of mythmaking; it examines the way legends grow, spread, balloon, and deflate, and takes the classic Hercules story in unexpected directions in a nicely subversive, clever way.
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
The Rock's brawny good looks do the Greco-Roman demi-god his due justice, and the hulking hero's physique looks like a supreme feat of nature (and the gym). But even through the muscles and leather armor, Johnson's natural charisma shines through. While The Rock is the centerpiece of the film, the true highlights are his supporting cast of heroes, who fire off expertly loaded quips when necessary. The standout here is Ian McShane's soothsaying Amphiaraus, whose quest to meet his fate often requires standing right in the way of flaming spears. The jokes sometimes feel anachronistically modern, but they mesh well enough into a story that's wholly uninterested in adhering to classic representations of ancient Greecian myths.
Hercules is by no measure a great film. Hell, I'd even be cautious to call it a good film. The suspect CGI and cheesy costumes break the spell all too often, but it's such a cheerfully ridiculous take on Hercules myth that it's nearly irresistible. The film is knowingly doofy and hits every rung of the standard action adventure, but does so with such a spirited commitment to the material and swashbuckling sense of fun, it's hard not to buy into its legend.
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection/Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
This weekend, you have two choices in the way of fantastical, action-packed blockbusters. On the one hand, you have something from the old stockyards: Brett Ratner's Hercules, a light-hearted take on the Ancient Greek myth about the epitome of alpha-male machismo (with, appropriately, Dwayne Johnson playing the lead). On the other, we have something rather new: the limit-pushing Lucy, which draws ideas from the most progressive of quantum theories and packs them into a Scarlett Johansson shoot-'em-up. Surely there is room enough in our summer movie schedule for these heroes of past and future glory, respectively. But when faced off against one another, which comes out the champion?
POWERS AND ABILITIES
Hercules' super strength, while mighty impressive in its own right, pales in comparison to everything Lucy's got going on in her rapidly evolving brain. Things kick off with simple tricks like mind-reading and telekinesis... but pretty soon (without spoiling anything), Lucy's abilities get far more expansive.
We never really get to know much about Lucy. She likes her club music and loves her mom, but what else do we have to sink our teeth into? But there's no anonymity with Hercules, with whom we're all familiar enough thanks to our sixth grade English teachers.
The Rock has charisma, sure, and sold a few laughs in Michael Bay's supreme Pain & Gain. But Johansson is a bona fide actor, capable of charm and chills alike. Although she's not giving a performance at the caliber of Lost in Translation or Her in Lucy, she's still adept in every sequence.
Hercules is all about believing in yourself, standing up for what's right, sticking by your friends, making your own destiny... all that . Lucy is essentially about the meaninglessness of human existence. Less fun.
BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS
Even with the benefit of its familiar source material and likable central star, Hercules is predicted to suffer at the hands of ScarJo's Lucy.
MOST IMPORTANLY, HOW ARE THE MOVIES?
Both good, neither great. We'd give Lucy the edge for originality and Luc Besson's superior visual flair, although Hercules' spirit is indelibly more inviting. Check out our reviews for Hercules and Lucy, and sound off below with your own votes.
The reality is (there's) burly men you don't know three feet from your face... It's all sexual acrobatics." Fifty Shades Of Grey star Jamie Dornan admits his sex scenes with co-star Dakota Johnson are anything but erotic. The highly-anticipated film's steamy trailer was released on Thursday (24Jul14).
Actress Dakota Johnson is reportedly dating Welsh rocker Matthew Hitt. The daughter of Hollywood veterans Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson was photographed strolling arm in arm with Drowners musician Hitt in New York City on Wednesday (23Jul14), a day before the highly-anticipated trailer for her new movie Fifty Shades of Grey was released.
The new couple was also snapped sharing an intimate kiss.
Johnson, 24, was romantically linked to Last Man Standing actor Jordan Masterson last year (13), while Hitt, who moved to the Big Apple in 2011, is said to have dated model Atlanta de Cadenet, the daughter of Duran Duran star John Taylor and British TV personality Amanda De Cadenet.
A pricey new watch actor Dwayne Johnson received as a wrap gift from his Hercules director Brett Ratner is in a repair shop after it was covered in slime at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards last week (ends18Jul14). The action man reveals event producers promised him that he would be among the few celebrities who would escape a blast with the green and gold goo, so he decided to wear the flashy timepiece for the very first time.
However, Johnson admits things didn't quite work out as planned and he soon regretted debuting his watch at the prizegiving.
He explains, "I had a watch, a brand new watch from my director Brett Ratner, it was a wrap gift from Hercules. It was expensive, it was the first time I was wearing it, I'm excited, it's beautiful.
"The producers were saying there's no slime, everything's cool. I thought, 'OK, great', so I start high-fiving the kids down below (the stage) and their hands were just so full of slime and it's getting all on the watch... So it's getting cleaned now."
Police Academy star Bobcat Goldthwait has married his love of directing with his passion for Big Foot by making a new movie about a search for Sasquatch. The funnyman-turned-filmmaker shot Willow Creek in the remote Six Rivers National Forest in Northern California, where Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin shot footage of what appeared to be Big Foot in 1967, and he admits he has become a big part of the community surrounding the myth.
But he confesses the chance he might stumble across the real thing while making Willow Creek turned him into an obsessive.
He says, "I shot the movie where the Patterson and Gimlin footage was originally shot, that footage where Big Foot's walking through and looks back. It's 17 miles down a dirt road; it takes two and a half hours to get there. There's no cell phones, there's no planes going over.
"You're in the middle of nowhere and when we were filming, we actually did see two mountain lions.... I'm out there and the idea of getting mauled to death wasn't lost on me - 'Bobcat killed by bobcat'... I was kind of insane when I made this movie... I was really obsessed."
Goldthwait admits he takes his love of Big Foot seriously, adding, "People bust my chops on this because I'm an atheist who believes in Big Foot, but I've met people who have heard and seen Big Foot... I'm accepted in the community; I've gone out looking for Big Foot with these guys on a number of occasions.
"I've been to Big Foot conventions and it's fascinating because most people in the Big Foot community believe Big Foot has a flat head, not a pointy head... This guy had a cardboard cut-out of a pointy headed Big Foot and the other guy comes over to him and he goes, 'You disgust me, look at his head!' And he goes, 'Really? I've seen Big Foot three times and you're never gonna see him 'cause you smoke!'"
Goldthwait's Willow Creek, in which actors Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson play Big Foot hunters interacting with town locals, is currently available as a video on demand. It will be released as a Blu-Ray/DVD later this year (14).
YouTube/Fifty Shades of Grey, Focus Features
Anastasia Steele may be a timeless literary hero. She may be a beacon of female agency in the realm of modern sexuality. She may be a vessel for the release of personal frustrations for readers the world over. She may be any and all of these things. But a good interviewer she is not. At least that's what we've gleaned from the first trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey:
We're not claiming to have all the answers behind a seamless interview, but we do know a few basic rules. Rules that Dakota Johnson, as the spiritually lukewarm Miss Steele, so callously breaks in this first look at the film. Steele pays a visit to the nauseatingly sleek office building of one Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) in order to conduct "an interview for the newspaper," as she so facelessly introduces. What's to follow is an onslaught of cardinal sins and groan-worthy slip-ups on the part of the would-be reporter.
Always look your subject in the eye.Nerves are understandable, but keep your nose out of your notebook. Steele's face barely reaches sea level.
Keep the discussion going.Any conversation is bound to hit a few lulls, but Steele allows for a pause so diabolically long and piercing that it's sure to kill any momentum in what otherwise might be an engaging back-and-forth.
YouTube/Fifty Shades of Grey, Focus Features
Don't make yourself the focus.While it's not a crime to inject a personal reflection here or there in the interest of forging an empathy and connection with your subject, Steele allows the chat to switch gears entirely and begins lamenting her own meaningless life. If you do insist on talking about yourself, keep it upbeat!
You probably shouldn't go and have sex with the person you interviewed.Although this one has its detractors.
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"One of our 7 Bucks Entertainment prod (production) goals for 2015 is to start the development for a 'Rock One Man Show' live. Comedy, singing (w/ (with) my Willie guitar of course), stories and anecdotes, audience interaction..." Dwayne Johnson reveals he is planning a one-man show in 2015 during a Reddit.com web chat on Wednesday (23Jul14).
If you're asking if I would consider being in the EXPENDABLES franchise - then the answer is yes. BUT... I don't want to be on their team and be buddies with them. F**k that noise. I want to hunt every single one of them down and tell them to 'send your soul to heaven cause your a** is mine'." Dwayne Johnson admits he would love to play a villain in Sylvester Stallone's Expendables action movie franchise in a recent Reddit.com webchat.