Tag Archives: Hercules

Film Friday #207

Fury (2014)

In the dying moments of WWII in Germany,  US Sargent Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt) commands is assigned a new gunner to join his tank crew in the form of grass-green administrator, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). Collier, his crew and their tank, nicknamed Fury, have managed to survive the war by sticking together and being willing to do whatever it takes to face down the enemy so they’re not particularly thrilled to have Norman on board. Not only is he nervous and scared but he has a set of scruples that the others have long-since abandoned in the reality of war. Fury trundles through German village after German village forcing surrender until Collier is sent to defend a set of crossroads from the advancing German army, which is by this stage mostly made up of kids and old men. Except this time its an SS battalion, the tank has broken down and the only thing in the way is five men and their refusal to quit. As exciting as Fury’s final battle is, this film is not about that. It’s more about the brutality of war as well as its brutalising effects. Throughout the film I could not help wondering how Collier, Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis (Jon Bernthal) and Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Peña) would ever readjust to civilian life after what they’ve seen and done which is what I feel the real story is. This is reflected in their constant refrain that life in the tank is “the best job I ever had” as well as their initial harsh treatment of Norman because he reminds them of what they have become. They are more connected now to each other than they could ever be to their families who have not been through the experiences they have. This is what spurs on their willingness to face an unwinnable final stand. Pitt gives a powerful and brooding performance and is ably supported by the vulnerable Lerman, brutal Bernthal, fatherly Peña and surprsingly strong LaBeouf (I really do think he’s turning a corner). I am a bit of a sucker for a war film and this one really does not disappoint. While it might be pretty straightforward in terms of plot development it’s got heart, tension and real power without shying away from the devastation and senselessness of war. 4/5

But they said Justice Beaver wasn't a real beaver!

But they said Justice Beaver wasn’t a real beaver!

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Continuing on the war movie theme, Mr O convinced me that I should move on from WWII to Vietnam and check out this classic, which I have somehow never seen despite it being directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola and being in the IMDB top 250. Apocalypse Now follows  Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) as he is deployed on a classified mission to track down and eliminate Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has gone rogue in Cambodia. Willard meets up and is transported by a boat crew captained by Chief Phillips (Albert Hall) and staffed by a collection of young and very green recruits. As the boat heads into the jungle Willard studies Kurtz, becoming more and more fascinated with this seemingly model officer but nothing can prepare him for what is waiting in Cambodia. In a similar fashion to Fury this film is about the inhumanity of war and the effect that behaving inhumanely has on individuals. There is one particular scene where Willard meets Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) who is supposed to assist him with his mission. Instead of being concerned with the action at hand his focus is on getting to surf the beach the fighting is happening on and this really stood out for me. Everyone is distracted, unfocused, disorganised and left to their own devices, which makes the whole war operation come across as disturbingly shambolic. Sheen gives an arresting performance as a man wrestling with his own demons while mindlessly following a mission he’s not sure he agrees with, which is backed up by a dark turn from Brando, who steals the show playing Kurtz as both caught up in philosophy and ferociously brutal. Of course the incredible cinematography and visionary exposition in terms of the direction has to be mentioned but it’s hard not to wonder if Coppola has toppled ever so slightly onto the side of self-indulgence. Well-deserving of its cult war movie status but not quite the best I’ve ever seen. 4/5

Willard had taken swamp stalking to a new level

Willard had taken swamp stalking to a new level

The Giant Mechanical Man (2012)

Tim (Chris Messina) is a street performer who dresses up as a giant mechanical man in an attempt to highlight the robotic way that people go through their lives, disconnected from everyone else. Janice (Jenna Fischer) is a disaffected temp sleepwalking her way through her uneventful, almost solitary life. In the same week that Tim’s girlfriend (Lucy Punch) leaves him, Janice loses her job and is forced to move in with her married sister, Jill (Malin Akerman). Both end up working at the zoo and soon a friendship with the potential for romance starts to blossom. But Jill won’t stop attempting to set Janice up with her self-help guru friend, Doug (Topher Grace) and both are afraid to share their feelings. As much as The Giant Mechanical Man is trying to pass itself off as some kind of deep, quirky, indie thing it’s really just a slightly less annoying romcom – meet cute follows some sort of misunderstanding follows ultimate togetherness. It’s sweet watching Tim and Janice discover each other and Jill and Doug are both satisfyingly awful but there’s nothing new or particularly exciting here that would warrant making a special effort to watch this. 2.5/5

Tim might have gone a little too far with the guyliner

Tim might have gone a little too far with the guyliner

Hercules (1997)

After a prophecy reveals that Hercules (Tate Donovan) the son of Greek gods, Zeus (Rip Torn) and Hera (Samantha Eggar) will foil the future plans of  nethergod Hades (James Woods) to take over Olympus, Hades decides to make him mortal and get rid of him. But when Hades’ minions, Pain (Bobcat Goldthwaite) and Panic (Matt Frewer) get it wrong Hercules ends up banished to earth but with super strength. This doesn’t make his life with his adoptive parents easy since he’s forever destroying everything in his pathwake. So when Hercules finds out his true parentage he decides to train with Philoctetes (Danny De Vito) in the hope of becoming a true hero and returning home. But performing great feats doesn’t necessarily make you a hero and when Hades realises Hercules is still alive he’s not going to let his plans go quietly. Regular readers of this blog will no that I’m not a great one for Disney and Hercules didn’t do much to change my mind. It has one good song and Pain and Panic are pretty funny but for the rest it’s a bit flat and lacking in real magic and I quickly got bored. It also massively bugged me that Hercules just ditched his adoptive parents without a look back despite the fact that they raised and cared for him for most of his life. The screenplay must have been written by one of those kids who grows up secretly believing they’re adopted and their parents are secretly mega rich. Meh. 2/5

Hercules immediately regretted watching "The Red Wedding"

Hercules immediately regretted watching “The Red Wedding”

Film Friday #194

The Inbetweeners 2 (2014)

After realising that their lives post school are a bit shit Will (Simon Bird), Neil (Blake Harrison) and Simon (Joe Thomas) decide to join Jay (James Buckley) on his gap year in Australia. Unsurprisingly Jay has bigged up his experience of Australia to well beyond the reality which is that he works in a toilet and lives in a tent in his uncle’s garden. Not that Will, who has no uni friends, Simon, whose girlfriend is a total psycho or Neil, who is too stupid to know any better have anything exciting to come home to. When Simon runs into a beautiful girl (Emily Berrington) that he used to go to junior school with things start to look up and the group join her and her annoying backpacker friends on a trip to Splash Planet but things have never run smoothly for these four and horror, heartbreak and humiliation are sure to follow. I really loved The Inbetweeners as a TV show but I didn’t like the first film. I was hoping this one would be better but I found it just as tedious. I think the problem is that Will and friends are bearable in twenty minute bursts but when you have to put up with them relentlessly for 90 minutes you realise what reprehensible human beings they are. I don’t have to love the characters in every movie I see but if I am expected not to hope that the world would be a better place if they just died in the desert then maybe some redeeming qualities might help. From the volume of the laughter of the rest of the audience, if you are a fifteen year old, you will love this film. Maybe at thirty-three I am just too old. 1.5/5

Will's attempts to give CPR to his laptop were not going according to plan

Will’s attempts to give CPR to his laptop were not going according to plan

Hercules (2014)

The legend tells us that Hercules (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) was a a demigod, the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, who performed twelve great tasks and became a legend of Greek mythology. According to this film he was actually just an exceptionally large, strong man who used a little trickery, an inspiring storyteller (Reece Ritchie) and a group of loyal companions to create a myth. This all works very well in establishing his career as a mercenary, hiring out his services for whoever has the most gold. When he is approached by Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson), daughter of Lord Cotys (John Hurt) offering a massive payday if he helps stop Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann) from taking over Thrace, he jumps at the chance. It’s not long before Hercules and his crew realise that everything is not what it seems and that the past never really stays buried. Dwayne Johnson is certainly big, athletic and very charismatic, which is good and his bants with his crew is fun to watch, which is good and the battle with the Bree (I think) reminded me a bit of Vikings, which was good. That’s about it. The rest was not good. Hercules is only about an hour and a half long but it feels much longer and devoid of any actual mythology, there isn’t anything to stop it from just being a below average swords and sandals romp. I can’t imagine anyone will remember it in a month from now. Rather watch Troy again… even if it totally glosses over Archilles’ relationship with Patroclus. 2/5

Hercules' grandmother was wondering where her leopard skin rug had got to

Hercules’ grandmother was wondering where her leopard skin rug had got to

Machete Kills (2013)

After barely escaping an attempt on his life former Federale, Machete (Danny Trejo) is recruited by the American President (Charlie Sheen) to take down an arms dealer (Demian Bichir) who has a nuclear weapon pointed at Washington. That’s about as much of the “plot” as I can remember. There are some great weird characters though. Mel Gibson plays, Voz, a master villain complete with cape. Sofia Vergara is Desdemona, a mental madam who has not only a machine gun bra but also a crotch gun. Amber Heard is Machete’s handler, who happens to be obsessed with beauty pageants. And several stars including Cuba Gooding Jnr, Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas play versions of El Cameleon, an assassin who can change his face. It all comes together in a chaotic hotchpotch that is just as mental as its predecessor and packed with Robert Rodriguez hallmarks – you know women with guns, enucleation, women fighting each other, gratuitously sexy outfits, rivers of blood. Machete Kills is not as much fun as Machete because it lacks the “I can’t believe this movie has actually been made” novelty element that Machete had but if you go in expecting brainless B-movie carnage, you’ll have a good time. 3/5

Desdemona's crotch gun had just backfired and it wasn't pretty

Desdemona’s crotch gun had just backfired and it wasn’t pretty

The Birdcage (1996)

Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane) have been a couple for years. Armand owns a successful drag cabaret club and Albert is his super-dramatic star. Together they have raised Armand’s son, Val (Dan Futterman), the product of Armand’s sole sexual experience with a female costar. When Val returns from college and announces that he is getting married both his dads are apprehensive. He is only twenty and they have yet to meet his fiancee, Barbara (Calista Flockhart). Barbara is the daughter of conservative senator, Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackmann), who happens to be embroiled in a scandal. Things only get worse when Barbara panics and tells her parents that Val’s father is a cultural attache to Greece and married to a woman. Inevitably the two families must meet and Val convinces his very reluctant father to play along. But who is going to deal with Albert and what will happen when Val meets his mysterious mother (Christine Baranski? There are lots of great things about The Birdcage. Robin Williams is utterly charming as Armand, Nathan Lane is completely over the top as Albert and Hank Azaria puts in a scene stealing performance as Agador, Armand and Albert’s Guatemalan “housekeeper”. It’s hard not to hate Val a little bit for putting his wonderful parents through what can only be described as an ordeal. Despite having grown up in such a tolerant environment he seems incapable of understanding the implications of making his father especially pretend to be someone he is not. Underneath the comedy and fabulosity is a more serious undercurrent exploring the fear and uncertainty a long-term same-sex couple might face with no legal marital rights. So much more poignant following the recent loss of Robin Williams. 3.5/5


Waiting for the bus was never so fabulous