300: Rise of an Empire (2014)


So … This is NOT Sparta?

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these.  Let’s see if I still know how to do it.  So, I saw a movie.  And that was a good thing.  Movies are good.  …SHIT!  This is harder than I thought!  I haven’t written a review in a while, and I actually haven’t been to the theaters in a while either.  I don’t think I’ve seen a movie this year!  Shameful, it is!  I think school is mainly to blame.  I like to try to set up my school schedule to allow me plenty of time for sleep and other fun activities such as movies … and then I realize mid-semester that it isn’t going to work out as planned.  But then Spring Break happened, so I had two days off, and I apparently decided that I should make them Ancient Greek/Roman appreciation day.  If you know what’s in theaters you’ll probably already know what I saw, but the first movie I saw was 300: Rise of an Empire, based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, written by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, directed by Noam Murro, and starring Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro, Lena Headey, Jack O’Connell, Yigal Naor, Andrew Tiernan, David Wenham, Hans Matheson, and Peter Mensah.

In the Battle of Marathon, General Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) of Athens kills King Darius I (Yigal Naor) of Persia in front of his son, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro).  And everyone acts like he did something wrong for some reason.  I was under the impression that this is how war works.  Well, I can understand Xerxes getting all pissy that his dad died, and that’s just what he does.  His dying father tells him that the Greeks can only be defeated by a God.  I believe this was intended to get Xerxes to stop the war as that would be the simplest method, but Xerxes decides that he should become a God instead, mainly because his naval commander, Artemisia (Eva Green), tells him that’s what it means.  Well Xerxes goes and swims in some funky pool and comes out gigantic, bejeweled, and golden.  So he’s a God now.  And he wants to get his revenge on that damned Themistocles, and all of Greece while he’s at it.

The first question I had for this movie is, “Where are the 300 Spartans?”  The answer to that is, “Elsewhere.  We just wanted to use the title.”  This movie happens at roughly the same time as the Battle of Thermopylae that we saw in the first movie.  At least they were right that we’d be watching an empire rise.  This time, we’ll watch less awesome warriors with less awesome abs fighting less awesome battles written by less awesome people.  So the movie is less awesome, but it’s still thoroughly watchable.  Sure there’s some stupid writing here, but I expected no less.  I came for the fights, and we’ll get to that later.  For now I’ll just say that the story wasn’t anything spectacular.  It was a little bit historical facts, but mostly just excuses to take us from one fight to the next.  And some stupid dialogue.  Let us not act like we didn’t expect that.  And by “that,” I mean lines like, “Ferocity matched only by beauty, which is matched only by her devotion to the king.”  That shows a gross misunderstanding of the word “only.”

The fights in this movie were good, but less significant as they were mostly things we had seen before in the first movie.  Lots of topless dudes cutting limbs off in slow motion.  And boy did they love using slow motion.  I’m pretty sure this movie would be about 23 minutes long if they played the entire thing at regular speed.  But that’s okay because they included plenty enough violence and gore to hold my attention.  The nautical battles were less interesting to me, and there were a few too many of them in comparison to the regular combat, but I got by.  Plus, they had a really interesting and innovative fight between Themistocles and Artemisia later in the movie, with an entirely different kind of stabbing.  This was a battle of genitals!  A sexual skirmish!  A very interesting type of combat, and one that I’d be interested in learning.  Especially with Eva Green.

The cast of the movie all did what they had to do and I had no real complaints.  My favorite was definitely Eva Green.  She was pretty badass in the movie, and more importantly, she was pretty topless in the movie.  I found this very significant, but apparently it’s not all that uncommon within her movie career.  But it’s the first movie I had seen her in where she was so exposed, and I found it to be a blessing.  I was always confused by Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes in the original 300.  Why would they decide to make what is supposed to be such an intimidating figure a giant, hairless, bejeweled individual with a creepy voice and ambiguous sexuality?  When I first saw him in this movie, I was much happier that he got to be regular looking … and then they turned him back into Baldie McGayBalls again.  But he was almost a secondary villain to Artemisia in this movie, so he was much easier to tolerate.  And I suppose his performance was fine as well.  Sullivan Stapleton was fine in this movie as well, but he was attempting to take the reins from Gerard Butler’s Leonidas and that’s a high bar of badass to reach.

300: Rise of an Empire probably shouldn’t have been called 300 because it really doesn’t have anything much to do with that story, and this story probably suffered for it.  The story isn’t as good as I it jumped the gun on what could eventually be some awesome source material, the fights weren’t nearly as good because the Greeks aren’t nearly as awesome as the Spartans, but the performances were mostly good though no one was quite as awesome as Gerard Butler’s Leonidas, or even Michael Fassbender’s Stelios.  But the movie is completely watchable and an entertaining enough way to spend a few hours, but it’s also entirely skippable.  300: Rise of an Empire gets “Leonidas is dead” out of “If death comes, I’m ready!”

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Dark Shadows (2012)


Reveal Yourself, Tiny Songstress!

Today’s movie was requested by my roommate Richurd. When he requested it, I suggested that he may have to wait until November for me to review it since it didn’t really feel like a horror movie. “It has vampires, witches, and werewolves in it!” he exclaimed, and then proceeded to beat me savagely. Once I awoke, I relented and agreed to review the movie as part of the October Horrorthon. The movie itself was one I knew about when it came to theaters, but had exactly zero desire to watch it. I didn’t know the source material and every commercial for the movie I saw fell flat on its face by way of comedy as far as I was concerned. But it’s a request and so I bring to you my review of Dark Shadows, written by Seth Grahame-Smith, directed by Tim Burton, and starring Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Bella Heathcote, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloë Grace Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Gulliver McGrath, Christopher Lee, and Alice Cooper.

In 1760, the Collins family moves from Liverpool to Maine to set up a fishing industry, naming the town Collinsport. They make lots of money and all is going well … until their son Barnabas (Johnny Depp) seduces the maid Angelique (Eva Green). She confesses that she loves him, but he does not feel the same. Also, she’s a witch. She takes it out on his family, getting them killed by a falling statue. Barnabas eventually falls in love with Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote), but the jealous Angelique bewitches her and makes her leap from a cliff. Barnabas tries to follow her, but finds that Angelique has turned him into a vampire. She then gets a mob to lock him in a coffin for 212 years. That’s when a group of construction workers inadvertently frees Barnabas, allowing him to return to his family – matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), her 15-year-old daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), Roger’s 10-year-old son David (Gulliver McGrath), David’s psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), and the manor’s caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) – just in time to greet David’s newly-hired caretaker Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), who is Josette’s reincarnation. But Barnabas will soon find that Angelique is still very much alive, and still very much scorned.

The best thing I could say about this movie is that it lived up to my expectations. The worst thing I could do is define those expectations. But I’ll do it anyway. I can’t say that Dark Shadows was a bad movie, but it’s very far from a good one. If its intentions were to be a horror movie, it was too goofy. If it wanted to be an action movie, it was too boring. If it was to be a mystery & suspense movie as Rotten Tomatoes claims it to be, then I probably shouldn’t have been able to go into the movie knowing exactly how it would turn out. Sadly, I think it wanted to be a comedy, but it also wasn’t funny. It tries to go for a lot of wordplay and dry wit that I’m sure made the British version of this stuff popular (assuming that it ever was, which I have not looked into), but the jokes used in this movie were too dry and lacked wit … or were just stupid. A lot of the movie after Barnabas returns to the 70’s just feels like the pitch for the movie was, “What if Austin Powers … wait for it … were a vampire!” Oh look at him as he doesn’t understand things because he’s been away for a long time! He thinks Alice Cooper is a lady! HILARIOUS! And on top of all that, the movie just wasn’t interesting. The family wasn’t likeable until the very end when they finally became more interesting, but I was long lost by then. All that being said, this is a Tim Burton movie, so the look of the movie is generally worth notation. It has a cool, creepy, dark look to the whole movie, but at a certain point I’m going to require more out of Tim than that. Also, I don’t know if it was intentional because they wanted to pay homage to the British version, but Johnny Depp looked goofy the entire movie. I was not buying that look.

The cast in this movie was filled with amazing names … who didn’t seem to want to try that hard. This is not a surprising performance for Johnny Depp. It’s a little bit like Captain Jack Sparrow without a drinking problem. Michelle Pfeiffer did not seem altogether invested in the movie. Eva Green was a little over the top, but so was her hotness. Chloë Grace Moretz was never interesting to me until the very end where she turned into something interesting … and then did nothing with it. Jackie Earle Haley came close to being funny a few times. I also didn’t like Gulliver McGrath, but more for the way he was written. How the hell is a kid going to see ghosts for his entire life, but freak out when he finds out the guy that’s been living with his family for a few months while being perfectly nice to him is a vampire?

I kind of feel like I wasted a bit of my time by watching Dark Shadows, but hopefully you don’t feel that you wasted time reading my review. This movie was not funny and not interesting, the actors didn’t seem into it, and I wasn’t either. I had/have no interest in the source material, so I have no idea if it holds up, but I do know that there’s not a lot of reason to watch this movie. It’s not an awful movie, but there are better ways to spend your time. Dark Shadows gets “It is with sincere regret that I must now kill all of you” out of “They tried stoning me, my dear. It did not work.”

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