Hercules

Popeye

Hercules may be the original superhero but he’s also something of a bore. The problem is that spectacular strength, when you get down to it, isn’t the most charismatic of superpowers. A gigantic, muscled titan without either personality or weaknesses can only wow an audience for so long. This is why Superman has the alien back story, why Achilles has that issue with his foot and why The Hulk suffers from anger-management issues. It is also why a great many Hercules films are hopelessly dull. And here we are, faced with yet another trip back to labored Ancient Greece with Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson. But I’m not here to judge the newest Hercules. I’m also not going to try making you watch the old animated television series, The Mighty Hercules. It ran from 1962 to 1966, trying to capitalize off of the wave of Italian-made muscled movies of the era. Aside from some truly amazing theme song lyrics (“Sweetness in his eyes/Iron in his thighs), it was made on the cheap and features some pretty terrible scripts. Part of its problem, actually, is the inherent blandness of the character. He’s a powerhouse of strength with an impenetrable, enormous chest. He’s always going to win. That’s dull. Enter a long-beloved American hero, Popeye the Sailor Man. He’s the sort of guy who wouldn’t even flinch when faced with this boring Greek demigod in the ring. Or, rather, the Olympic Stadium. 1948′s Popeye Meets Hercules is set at the very first Olympic Games, where the gods themselves have […]

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Paramount Pictures

Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) and his band of mercenaries have been summoned by Cotys, the King of Thrace (John Hurt), as he’s in a bad way and under threat from a head-chopping despot named Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann). Yet Thrace has no army, and Rhesus’s extremely substantial forces won’t stop until every last Thracian neck has a blade in it or a chain around it. Is Hercules man (or demigod) enough to train an army and save Thrace from the grip of totalitarian power? Why are we even asking — this is Hercules! Slayer of the Nemean Lion! Decapitator of the Hydra! No doubt you’ve heard of him, if not from his many tales of valor, then from the onslaught of ads that have been pimping Johnson in lionskin for weeks. Except Hercules battles through all those labors (and all that CGI beast footage) in about two minutes in an opening montage/summary of the hero’s most famous deeds. Then, with a tasteful spear-up-the-butt joke, the film sweeps them all aside, revealing that everything we thought we knew about Hercules was just a sham. This Hercules is not a demigod; just a man with a knack for misdirection. He’ll come away the victor in a 40-0n-1 duel… with plentiful assistance from his Greek variant on the Merry Men, lurking just out of sight. He’ll slay a man with a single punch… due to the arrowhead he’s secreted away between his knuckles. This is con man Hercules, a soldier of fortune with no noticeable […]

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summermovieprediction_final

Welcome to the final week of our 2014 Summer Box-Office Challenge! We’ve been tallying points all summer long, and now it comes down to this. A strong man versus a smart woman. As a reminder, at the end of the contest — next Monday, July the 28th — the three top point-earners will each win a Blu-ray/DVD prize pack! First place will win ten (10) Blu-ray/DVD titles that were released throughout the summer, second place wins five (5) and third place wins two (2). As we’ve already seen the score can shift noticeably week to week, and with one week left that means anyone within nine points of the top three spots still has a chance of winning. All of the still eligible players are listed below the break. Now let’s look at this past weekend’s results! Dawn of the Planet of the Apes held onto #1 bringing in another $36.3 million. That’s pretty much an exact 50% drop from opening weekend and a great hold for the critically acclaimed film. Our bonus question resulted in far fewer of you guessing right as Mood Indigo‘s per theater average ($13k) beat out both Wish I Was Here ($7k) and I Origins ($7k). Keep reading to see the new player rankings and the ten who are still in the game.

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The Rock Hercules

If you want your mind blown, consider this: there’s a Hercules movie coming out this summer. In a little over a month, in fact. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track, but here’s a great example of a potential blockbuster that’s slipped mostly under the radar. Or maybe we’ve avoided it because we already had an abjectly horrible Hercules movie this year, and we haven’t quite recovered yet. We got a good look at a trailer back in March, and this offers a little more plot beyond Hercules telling us his name, but it still looks mostly like the movie is made out of sweat. Check it out for yourself:

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Hercules

Was Hercules truly a god? Was he just a mortal man? Was he, as Disney posited, flanked at all times by a chorus of R&B singers and a grumpy man-goat? The world may never know. Even if the world does kind of know, because Hercules was not a real person and just some guy the Greeks made up who could lift really, really heavy things. But Brett Ratner‘s Hercules isn’t satisfied with this answer. Instead, it offers up its own. This Hercules is something different, something billed as a “revisionist take on the classic myth,” where Hercules was not the son of Zeus and lived in a totally realistic Greece devoid of any supernatural beasts. Which makes it super awkward when the first trailer for Hercules rolls out supernatural beast after supernatural beast for Dwayne Johnson to beat with a club. Technically, this Herc might still be a non-godly one — the text cards proclaim, “BEFORE HE WAS A LEGEND… HE WAS A MAN,” and Ian McShane spends most of the trailer bellowing other, similar things about man and legend. But it seems somewhere along the line Ratner decided against “revisionist real-world Hercules,” and opted for “revisionist does-all-the-same-things-old-Hercules-did” Hercules.

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Lena Dunham Girls

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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THE LEGEND OF HERCULES

Oh, January. It’s like we don’t even need any other months when the first one can supply us with such strong contenders for the best of the year and the worst of the year. Guess which category The Legend of Hercules falls under. Hint: it’s not playing at Sundance. I know, it’s too early to be sure that this will fall on our list of the most awful movies of 2014, and we’ve got another Hercules movie out this summer from Brett Ratner, so you know it could actually get much worse. At least that competing blockbuster has The Rock as its lead, promising a charisma that Legend star Kellan Lutz just completely lacks. Not that more personality would have made this movie a lot better, but it could have used someone with more appeal than if they’d just cast an actual rock in the role of the demigod. This is supposed to be a legendary figure, after all. Until this movie, Lutz was best known for being a regular in the Twilight movies. Those are movies I’ve seen and, I have no shame in saying, sometimes enjoyed. And yet I have absolutely no memory of his presence or character in that series. That’s how unimpressive he is as an actor. He kind of reminds me of Sam Worthington, only without the talent. In The Legend of Hercules, he’s occasionally part of a large battle scene, and whether he’s wearing a helmet or not doesn’t matter; he never stands out. Nor does […]

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dueling hercules

Something oddly wonderful happened in early ’70s Hollywood the likes of which was never glimpsed again. No, I’m not referring to Elliott Gould’s emergence as a leading man and international sex symbol. Instead I’m talking about a situation where two studios with similar projects decided to combine forces instead of racing to complete competing movies. 20th Century Fox had the rights to Frank Robinson’s and Thomas Scortia’s novel “The Glass Inferno,” and WB had the rights to Richard Stern’s “The Tower.” Both books were disaster tales about a devastating high-rise fire, so the studios combined their efforts resulting in 1974′s The Towering Inferno. It was an immense success. Similar scenarios have happened many times since with competing projects bearing a remarkable resemblance to each other in plot or subject, but none of them have ended in that same congenial way. Either one film drops out of the running (think Linda Lovelace biopic Inferno surrendering to Lovelace), or two similarly themed movies hit screens within months of each other. That’s actually the most common scenario, and it’s set to happen again next year. Kind of. Two CGI-filled epics about Hercules are set for release in 2014. February will bring Hercules: The Legend Begins, a Renny Harlin film starring Twilight‘s Kellan Lutz as the muscular hero, and then Brett Ratner‘s Hercules with Dwayne Johnson in the title role flexes its way into theaters in July. While these head-to-heads are often tough to call a victor on in advance, this one seems like a […]

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According to a report from Variety, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is currently in negotiations to star in Brett Ratner’s next film, Hercules. Normally I might be scoffing a little at this news, but today it’s striking me as being a good move, and for several reasons. The first being that while I usually find Brett Ratner’s work to be less than satisfying, last night I gave Tower Heist a watch, and while it was pretty stupid, it wasn’t completely offensive. And the best parts of the film were the performances by Eddie Murphy and Alan Alda, two charismatic actors who were given pretty decent platforms to show off their inherent charm. If there’s one thing that The Rock has got in spades, it’s charisma, so perhaps there’s hope for a Brett Ratner film yet. The second reason I’m cautiously optimistic about this news is just that it’s a movie about Hercules. Any career move that shows Johnson intends on continuing his re-commitment to getting huge in the gym, dropping elbows on people at Wrestlemania, and starring in big budget action movies is a good sign to me. He lost me there for a few years when he was way trimmed down and just trying to subsist on smirking his way through kids’ movies. The world needs another action icon, not another former symbol of masculinity degrading himself for money. Leave that to Ice Cube.

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The redeeming quality of the Cars franchise has nothing to do with spectacular visuals, high-octane action or universal bathroom humor. No, when it comes to the automotive Pixar series, it’s all about the plethora of celebrity voices and their 8-cylinder caricatures. Jay Leno as Jay Limo. Jeff Gordon as Jeff Gorvette. John Lasseter as John Lassetire. Gene Shalit couldn’t come up with names this golden. Cars and Cars 2 are wackier examples of animators porting over celebrity likenesses for the purposes of their characters, but it’s a more common practice than we realize. Hey, if the voice fits the real face, why not whip up a character that fits the bill? Here are a few examples of actors whom animators didn’t have too much trouble dropping into their cartoon feature films (with varying degrees of punny names):

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Last summer, word was that Brett Ratner was going to tackle the likes of Hercules by way of the Radical Comics title “Hercules: The Thracian Wars.” Instead, he signed on to direct Tower Heist, and Hercules was put on ice. Until now. It looks like Ratner is circling around a new attack at the property being launched by MGM instead of Universal. The sword and sandals phase we’re in has had mixed results both in quality and box office, but it definitely seems like a genre poised for a comeback. According to Vulture, Ryan Condal is working on the script, but the issue, as anyone who’s read the comic knows, is that Hercules here isn’t really Hercules at all. He’s a mercenary that barely resembles the mythological man-god. Thus, it will also most likely fit in with the trend of seeing characters given darker traits and storylines. Still, it’s unclear why Ratner isn’t remaking Hercules in New York with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I hear he’s available.

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Instead of repeating some litany of grievances against Brett Ratner, just go ahead and pull out your internet film geek handbook to page 372 and read the standard text on your own. When you’re done, you might be interested to know that the director you hate for being average instead of outright awful is circling a project that stands as at least his third attempt to get some sand between his sandals. Ratner wants to be the man to take Avi Lerner’s Hercules concept and breathe life into its muscles. The new interest is most likely sparked by the unreal success of Clash of the Titans, the foreign box office killing of Prince of Persia, and a couple of fingers crossed for Conan. However, since that last film is being produced by Lerner, it will be interesting to see whether success or failure influences the decision to move forward here. If the news bothers you, try to pretend that it’s actually about a movie where Hercules fights Brett Ratner. Plus, it’s reason enough for you to check out the Junkfood Cinema entry on Hercules in New York. Topical! [LA Times]

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Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; because you’re worth it. This is the internet column that makes all other internet columns look great in their skinny jeans. Every week I dust off the least impressive movies I can find, routinely from my own collection, and as you sit astounded, I have the audacity to talk about how much I love these cinematic disasters.

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