The Legend of Hercules

If only Kellan Lutz was this electric onscreen...

If only Kellan Lutz was this electric onscreen…

(2014) Swords and Sandals (Summit) Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee, Liam Garrigan, Liam McIntyre, Rade Serbedzija, Jonathan Schaech, Luke Newberry, Kenneth Cranham, Mariah Gale, Sarai Givaty, Dimiter Dochinov, Nikolai Sotirov, Radoslav Parvanov, Spencer Wilding, Bashar Rahal, Vladimir Mihailov. Directed by Renny Harlin

I don’t know what it is about movies about the Greek demigod Hercules that they are almost uniformly awful, going back to the Steve Reeves epics of the 60s (which were actually the best of them and could only be classified as mediocre) to the godawful Schwarzenegger version Hercules in New York to even the Disney animated feature which remains one of their weakest ever. However, just when you thought they couldn’t get any lower…

When Queen Alcimene (McKee) of Greece realizes her tyrant of a husband, King Amphitryon (Adkins) wages war not for gain but out of sheer bloodlust, she knows he must be stopped. She prays to the goddess Hera for deliverance and the goddess appears, promising a son who would be the downfall of the father. She allows her husband, the God Zeus to lie with her and father her bouncing new baby boy whom will be named Heracles…er, Hercules which translates to Gift of Hera although the boy will be called Alcides as her hubby ain’t too keen on being reminded of the boy’s divine parentage. Instead, he showers favors on his mean-spirited elder son Iphicles (Garrigan).

Hercules (Lutz) grows to manhood and falls for the Cretan princess Hebe (Weiss) whose last name I’m certain is Jebe. She’s a comely girl but she is promised to Iphicles who is heir to the throne. She of course would rather have the buff Hercules and conspires to run off with him. Unfortunately they are caught and Hercules is banished to Egypt to take on a rebellious city-state on an expedition led by Sotiris (McIntyre) who knows they are in for a rough ride when the number of soldiers assigned to him is cut in half. The whole thing is a set-up of course and Sotiris and Hercules are the sole survivors and are sold into slavery to be gladiators in a mud pit – think of it as a combination of MMA and female mud wrestling. Can Hercules win his freedom and get back home in time to prevent his true love’s marriage to his brother?

There are just so many problems with this movie I don’t know where to begin. The script might be a good spot – the dialogue is so cringeworthy that you spend the entire 99 minutes (which seemed like 199) in a permanent twitch rendering the audience in a kind of perpetual seizure throughout the film.

I haven’t seen so many slo-mo action shots in which regular speed stunt sequences are slowed down and then returned to normal speed. It happens so often that it becomes tedious and actually caused me to twitch further. In fact something tells me that it may well have been more entertaining to watch surveillance camera footage of the audience than to watch the actual film. Where is Mystery Science Theater 3000 when you need them?

Kellan Lutz. Ah, Kellan Lutz. He is a good looking lad with an easy-going demeanor and an engaging grin but at least at this point he doesn’t have the charisma needed to carry a movie like this. In fact, the best performances here were Adkins as the frothing-at-the-mouth King and distinguished character actor Serbedzija as Herc’s tutor. The rest of the cast…aieee!

Even the CGI isn’t up-to-snuff – an early sequence in which Hercules battles the Nemean Lion is so bad that the audience is yanked right out of the movie, which might not be a bad thing. This isn’t a movie you should get lost in.

It gives me no joy to write a review like this. Director Renny Harlin has some pretty good flicks to his credit although admittedly it’s been awhile since I can remember one of his movies fondly. Lutz seems to be a nice enough guy but this is a really, really bad film and I’d be doing my readers a disservice by sugarcoating it. There are really very few redeeming factors other than the very buff Lutz is shirtless for virtually the entire movie which may be appealing to those who find that sort of thing appealing. Otherwise, just keep in mind that this may well be the leading contender for worst movie of the year.

REASONS TO GO: Bored out of your skull.

REASONS TO STAY: Self-respect.

FAMILY VALUES:  There is a great deal of combat action and violence and a couple of scenes of sensuality.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: To maintain his physique, Lutz did more than a thousand push-ups and abdominal crunches every day on set.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/25/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 3% positive reviews. Metacritic: 22/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters


NEXT: August: Osage County

Four-Warned: January 2014

I, Frankenstein

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

4. LABOR DAY (2.0)

4. 24 EXPOSURES (1.5)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

JANUARY 1, 2014

THE BEST OFFER (IFC) Genre: Thriller. A closed-off antiques dealer becomes enamored of a mysterious client. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 With a stellar cast and legendary director Giuseppe Tornatore this has my undivided attention.

JANUARY 2, 2014

INTERIOR, LEATHER BAR (Strand) Genre: Drama. The Al Pacino film Cruising legendarily had 40 minutes of sexually explicit material cut; a pair of filmmakers set out to re-imagine that footage. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 3.9 I’m really not sure what the purpose of this movie is.

JANUARY 3, 2014

BEYOND OUTRAGE (Magnet) Genre: Crime Drama. Although he yearns to retire after being released from prison, a Yakuza boss gets embroiled in a war between rival gangs manipulated by a ruthless police detective. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The sequel to Outrage, a brutal Japanese crime drama.
OPEN GRAVE (Tribeca) Genre: Horror. After waking up in a pit of dead bodies with no memory, a man makes his way to a nearby farmhouse where he finds others with a similar story. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Sharlto Copley stars in this one; looks pretty interesting from the trailer.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES (Paramount) Genre: Found Footage Horror. A Latino family finds itself the object of supernatural events. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 A spin-off from the hit franchise.

JANUARY 10, 2014

THE ADVENTURER: THE CURSE OF THE MIDAS BOX (RLJ) Genre: Fantasy. A 17-year-old boy discovers that the link to his missing parents and younger brother is a mysterious old hotel. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Sounds awful on paper but the trailer looks a lot better than it sounds.
BANSHEE CHAPTER (XLRator) Genre: Horror. A journalist investigating secret government chemical experiments uncovers a relationship with a mysterious radio signal of unknown origin. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 An intriguing concept but the trailer didn’t exactly rock my world.
BLACK COFFEE (One Village/RLJ) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A down on his luck man finally finds the woman of his dreams – until his gold-digging ex-girlfriend and her psycho ex-husband decide to get involved. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Appears to be another unfunny romantic comedy.
COLD COMES THE NIGHT (Stage 6/Goldwyn) Genre: Thriller. A nearly-blind criminal takes a hotel owner and her daughter hostage and forces them to be his eyes when he goes to retrieve a cash stash from a crooked cop. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Bryan Cranston and Alice Eve are both moving up in Hollywood and they make an intriguing combination.
DIVORCE CORP. (Candor) Genre: Documentary. A look at how the modern family court has turned into a cash cow more about generating revenue than in protecting families and facilitating safety as they are mandated to do. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 A chilling look at how broken the system has become.
DUMBBELLS (GoDigital) Genre: Comedy. A former college athlete turned trainer and the shallow owner of the gym he works at hatch a hare-brained scheme to turn their failing gym into a reality show. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 If you can’t laugh at the physically fit, who can you laugh at?
IF YOU BUILD IT (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. One of the poorest counties in North Carolina resolves to radically transform their school, their community and their lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Can school still be inspirational? Maybe so.
THE LEGEND OF HERCULES(Summit) Genre: Swords and Sandals. The origin of one of Greek mythology’s most memorable heroes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.9 I’m not sure that the first name that would have come to mind when you say Hercules would be Kellan Lutz.
LOVES HER GUN (Devolver Digital) Genre: Drama. After being attacked on the streets of New York, a woman moves to Texas and becomes enmeshed in the gun culture. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Wow! Enormous potential here if they don’t go the easy, safe route.
RAZE (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A woman is abducted and taken to a concrete bunker where she is forced to fight other women to the death in order to protect their loved ones. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Starring the incomparable Zoe Bell, this one raises above the average exploitation flick.
THE TRUTH ABOUT EMANUEL (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A troubled young girl takes an unhealthy interest in a neighbor who bears a striking resemblance to her deceased mother. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks very complex and layered; intrigued to see this one.

JANUARY 15, 2014

GENERATION WAR (Music Box) Genre: Drama. Five young German men navigate the nearly impossible moral consequences of Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 An epic German film that is the first must-see of 2014.

JANUARY 17, 2014

BACK IN THE DAY (Screen Media) Genre: Comedy. Crashing his high school reunion, an old Hell raiser takes his friends out and in doing so gets them in hot water with their wives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Doesn’t seem to break any new ground in the high school reunion sex comedy genre, limited as it is.
BIG BAD WOLVES (Magnet) Genre: Thriller. Three men involved in a murder are on a collision course; the father of the victim, a maverick police detective and the main suspect in the murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Revenge thriller Middle Eastern-style; Quentin Tarantino really likes it so that’s saying something.
DEVIL’S DUE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Horror. After a newlywed couple get pregnant sooner than expected, the husband begins to notice disquieting changes in his bride that may be far more sinister than hormonal mood changes. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 One gets the sense that the filmmakers are trying to go for a 21st century Rosemary’s Baby.
FREEZER (Anchor Bay) Genre: Thriller. A man finds himself locked in a restaurant freezer and a badly wounded cop may be the only way out. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.9 I generally find Dylan McDermott a compelling actor.
G.B.F. (Vertical) Genre: Comedy. Three high school clique queens battle for overall supremacy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 I can’t think of anything I could be less interested in.
JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT (Paramount) Genre: Spy Thriller. A reboot of the Jack Ryan series as a pre-CIA Jack discovers a terrorist plot to destroy the world’s financial markets. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.8 I love the Jack Ryan series but for some reason this one isn’t really exciting me to see it much.
JAMESY BOY (Phase 4/XLRator) Genre: Thriller. A teenage gangbanger goes to prison and becomes the protégé of a convicted killer who wants to straighten him out. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Based on a true story but truth be told this really looks kind of…well, been there done that.
LIFE OF A KING (Millennium) Genre: True Life Drama. An inner city advocate tries to improve the lives of the kids of Washington DC – through teaching them the game of chess. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The best performance by Cuba Gooding Jr. in years.
LIKE FATHER LIKE SON (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. Two Japanese children are switched at birth into very different families. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 A beautiful trailer and what looks to be a thoughtful take on an age-old story from master director Kore-eda Hirokazu.
MAIDENTRIP (First Run) Genre: Documentary. 14-year-old Laura Dekker defies the odds and attempts to make a solo trip around the world in a sailboat. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The parent in me recoils in horror; the dreamer in me cheers her on.
NUT JOB (Open Road) Genre: Animated Feature. A squirrel who accidentally destroys the food supply for the winter hits upon a nutty scheme to replenish it. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.5 The animation and storyline look substandard.
REASONABLE DOUBT (Lionsgate) Genre: Crime Thriller. After a DA intentionally throws a case in which a career criminal is blamed for the hit and run death that he himself was responsible for, he discovers that he acquitted a guilty man. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 You can’t go wrong with Samuel L. Jackson.
RIDE ALONG (Universal) Genre: Comedy. A fast-talking but wimpy man seeking to wed the sister of a tough cop must go on a ride along to prove his worth. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Kevin Hart and Ice Cube may be the ultimate odd couple.
SUMMER IN FEBRUARY (Tribeca) Genre: Romance. The true story of Albert Munnings who rose from a working class background to become one of the greatest British artists of the 20th Century. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Very lush, very British.

JANUARY 21, 2014

KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM (eOne) Genre: Fantasy. A group of LARPers accidentally conjure up a real demon and realize that they are all that stands between us and the end of the world. We’re doomed.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks truly amusing and who could go wrong with the great Peter Dinklage (or the not-as-great Steve Zahn)?

JANUARY 24, 2014

24 EXPOSURES (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. The death of a beautiful young model brings together a homicide detective and a fetish photographer as an unlikely crime solving team. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Looks incredibly compelling; may be Joe Swanberg’s best film yet.
ENEMIES CLOSER (Lionsgate) Genre: Thriller. After a drug cartel loses a shipment in the wilderness, they force an ex-Navy SEAL to guide them to their trove. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 JCVD as an over-the-top villain…hmm.
GIMME SHELTER (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. A pregnant street teen finds her strength and sisterhood in a shelter that she fights to save. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Impressive cast; trailer consists mostly of Vanessa Hudgens overacting though.
GLORIA (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. An aging woman tries to make the best of her loneliness until she finds a love that reignites her passion and allows her to discover her inner strength. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks life-affirming and who can argue with that?
I, FRANKENSTEIN (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. The creation of Victor Frankenstein finds himself embroiled in a war between demons and angels in which he is the crucial tipping point. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 1.4 Looks like a cross between Hellblazer and…well, Hellblazer.
MERCEDES SOSA: THE VOICE OF LATIN AMERICA (First Run) Genre: Documentary. One of Argentina’s most famous singers was also famous for her courage to stand against dictators and bullies. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 While she’s largely unknown to non-Latin Americans, she remains a symbol of freedom and democracy south of the United States.
RUN & JUMP (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. An American doctor arrives in Ireland to observe the victim of a rare type of stroke and ends up teaching the family of the victim as much as they teach him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 A slice of Irish wit and wisdom.
STRANGER BY THE LAKE (Strand) Genre: Thriller. After falling in love one summer by the lake, a man and his lover become the prime suspects in a murder. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles January 31). RATING: 2.0 Very Hitchcockian, with a gay twist.
VISITORS (Cinedigm) Genre: Documentary. The director of Koyaanisqatsi examines the relationship between man and technology. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 More of a montage of images than a documentary.

JANUARY 29, 2013

CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. Re-enacts airline cockpit emergencies using actual black box recordings. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.1 While it sounds very compelling, it also seems a little bit ghoulish.

JANUARY 31, 2014

12 O’CLOCK BOYS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Documentary. A group of daring bike-riding hooligans capture the admiration of a Baltimore adolescent. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 I get the sense that the filmmakers are glorifying stuff that shouldn’t be glorified.
ARMISTICE (XLRator) Genre: Science Fiction. Trapped in a strange warehouse and forced to fight bizarre inhuman monsters, a Royal Marine finds hope in a diary left by a former occupant of the place who served in the First World War. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Fascinating concept; haven’t seen a full trailer yet (just a teaser) to really get a good sense of what the film might be like.
AT MIDDLETON (Anchor Bay) Genre: Romance. Two single parents of kids entering the same college ditch the campus tour and fall in love. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks kinda charming.
BEST NIGHT EVER (Magnet) Genre: Sex Comedy. A bride-to-be heads off to Vegas for her bachelorette weekend with her sister and two best friends for a kind of distaff Hangover. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 I get the sense that it takes the most cliché plot points ever from a lot of movies that are better than this will be.
BRIGHTEST STAR (Gravitas) Genre: Dramedy. Not wanting to give up the girlfriend who just dumped him, a fresh-out-of-college young man determines to become the man she wants him to be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Doesn’t look bad…but doesn’t look all that compelling either.
LABOR DAY (Paramount) Genre: Drama. On a back-to-school shopping trip, a young boy befriends a wounded man who turns out to be an escaped convict and takes him home to his agoraphobic mother. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Has a bit of a Nicholas Sparks vibe to it but with Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in the leads there is a lot of potential here.
SOMEWHERE SLOW (Screen Media) Genre: Drama. After being involved in a convenience store robbery, a woman on the spur of the moment decides to walk out of her life and begin a new one. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 It’s one of those types of stories that needs flawless execution to work right.
THAT AWKWARD MOMENT (Focus) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Three friends resolve not to date while one of them is recovering from a rough break-up but find that harder to do than they thought. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Looked a bit cheesy from the trailer.
TIM’S VERMEER (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. Follows the quest of Tim Jenison to try and duplicate the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s photorealistic style using 17th century technology that was available to the painter. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Directed by Teller (of Penn and…) the subject is really fascinating to me.
THE WAIT (Monterey Media) Genre: Thriller. A family becomes divided over the possibility that their beloved recently deceased mother might be resurrected. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.5 Sounds interesting but unable to find a trailer for it online.

The Legend of Hercules, Her, Lone Survivor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Ride Along, I Frankenstein, Labor Day, That Awkward Moment, Tim’s Vermeer