The Legend of Hercules (2014)

the-legend-of-hercules-posterStarring Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee, Liam Garrigan, Liam McIntyre, Rade Serbedzija, Johnathon Schaech, Luke Newberry, Kenneth Cranham, Mariah Gale, Sarai Givaty

Directed by Renny Harlin

Expectations: Super low. I just want swords, sandals, and fun.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


The Legend of Hercules has a fairly bad reputation, even for a film that’s only been out for a few months. The score on Rotten Tomatoes score is 3% for God’s sake! So leave it to me to make it something of a priority to watch it, and then to enjoy it thoroughly. Don’t mistake that for me being blind to the film’s bad qualities — oh, did I ever notice them! — but the film entertained in spite of this. It’s really subjective, though, so I don’t recommend hastily running out in your loincloth to rent the film, but know that there is the possibility that you might find something to enjoy here. I guess that makes me part of the 3%, which is in no way related to the American elitist assholes who make up the 1%. I promise.

So in the face of the huge wall of adversity coming at this movie, I thought that if I reviewed it I shouldn’t waste any time on why it’s bad. I’m sure within the 97% there are plenty of critical diatribes describing exactly why The Legend of Hercules is a horrible blight on the world that is so horrendously bad it actually sucks other things into its strange, cinematic black hole. So there’s no point in rehashing these points. I will say that I don’t think the movie is anywhere near bad enough to warrant such hate, but I understand why. Director Renny Harlin has definitely been in better form than aping Zack Snyder’s ugly, unnecessary slo-mo that filled 300, while also trying to appeal to the Twilight crowd with a tender love story and star Kellan Lutz. Did I like these aspects? Of course not, but I knew they would be there and I expected them, so I was able to let them roll off my back as confidently as the film’s actors delivered their historically inaccurate, “Any American movie set in the past is made better by phony English accents” English accents.

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Taken 2 (2012)

taken_two_ver2_xlgStarring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, D.B. Sweeney, Luke Grimes, Rade Serbedzija, Kevork Malikyan, Alain Figlarz

Directed by Olivier Megaton

Expectations: Low.

twohalfstar


Have you ever had a sandwich made with stale bread that fell apart as you were eating it? That’s kinda how Taken 2 is. While I greatly enjoyed the middle section of the film, even as unbelievable and ridiculous as some of it was, the first and third acts were pretty damn mediocre. The opening clumsily references the previous film and sets up a contrived situation so that now more than one of Neeson’s family members are in peril. And the ending… well, we’ll get to that.

Taken 2 is a completely unnecessary sequel to a great film. There’s no reason to make this other than a paycheck, but based on my love of the original, I was willing to put those feelings aside enough to enjoy a dumb action movie. I didn’t expect it to be Taken, I just hoped that it wasn’t quite so bad as others have made it out to be. I guess this is where my love of bad movies comes in, as I was largely able to enjoy what Taken 2 was shoveling, despite the dumb story, some horrid editing and a ridiculous amount of close-ups limiting the audience’s field of view.

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Batman Begins (2005)

Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Rade Serbedzija, Rutger Hauer, Tom Wilkinson, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boone Junior, Morgan Freeman, Larry Holden

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Expectations: High. This is the third time around with this one.


When I first saw Batman Begins in 2005, I thought it was pretty good. I was impressed by it for sure, and I thought that Christopher Nolan was definitely the right man for the job. I had become a fan of his with Memento, so I was excited to see him ascend to the big leagues of cinema. I re-watched Batman Begins in 2008, right before seeing The Dark Knight in the theater, and found it to be better than I remembered. Re-watching it now, a couple of weeks after the release of the third and final Nolan Batman film, I am absolutely floored by how great it is. Batman Begins is a brilliant piece of work, expertly taking the Batman franchise and elevating it far beyond anything that Burton or Schumacher could have ever dreamed of doing. Nolan did the impossible: he made a Batman film that walks the line between realism and comic book thrills, without ever crossing the line into the schmaltz that categorized every film in the 1989-1997 series.

Batman Begins is exactly what the title suggests, an origin film for Batman. Instead of wasting half the runtime on setting up a villain that will only be vanquished by the end of the film, Batman Begins focuses on what makes Bruce Wayne and Batman tick. Batman doesn’t appear until an hour into the movie, but the story is so thrilling and well told that it doesn’t matter. I know I said in my review of Batman that I loved how they ditched the origin and got straight to the Batman, and I do, but the character setup on display here is flawlessly pulled off. It succeeds in making Batman a psychotic, tortured man with toys, but one that we care deeply about. His arc over the course of the film never lets up, keeping Bruce/Batman always at the forefront of our thoughts. And to have three villains, all of them largely unknown to the public at large, and then to not provide any of them with origins proves definitively that the current superhero movie formula that everyone else uses is null and void. Seriously, have any other filmmakers seen this movie?

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