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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Sherlock Holmes (2009)


Cour, Petit Lapin, Cour.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)I’ve felt that my reviews have had a large gap in them for some time.  Not necessarily that today’s movie is such a classic or amazing movie that it was a shame I hadn’t reviewed it though.  It’s just that I’m a completionist.  I can’t have reviewed one film in a series without reviewing all of them.  Some people may refer to that as being OCD.  To that I say, “Shut up.”  I reviewed the sequel to today’s movie because I saw it in theaters, and never reviewed this movie because – though I was sure I purchased it at some point – I was never able to find it.  Eventually I repurchased it on BluRay, because I was obsessively compelled to have it since I also had the second movie.  Again, shut up.  After it sat around on my computer for a while, I eventually got around to reviewing Sherlock Holmes, based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, written by Paul Bales, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, Michael Robert Johnson, co-written and directed by Guy Ritchie, and starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly, Eddie Marsan, Hans Matheson, and Geraldine James.

Detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) prevent Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) from ritually killing a young woman, as he has killed five women before.  Three months later, Watson is preparing to move out of the flat he shares with Holmes to marry his fiancée Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly).  Holmes is not taking it well.  The two are asked to attend the hanging of Blackwood; Watson to pronounce him dead, and Holmes because it was Blackwood’s last request.  Blackwood tells Holmes that his death is only the beginning, and that three more deaths will happen after he rises from his grave.  Holmes scoffs at it and Blackwood is hanged.  Three days later, Blackwood seemingly rises from the grave.  Holmes resumes his search, and he even convinces Watson to join him so that his reputation wouldn’t be damaged.  After all, who would want to marry a doctor who can’t even tell if a man is dead or not?  To get them started, professional thief and former adversary of Holmes Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) sends them to find a ginger midget who was working with Blackwood.

If you connect the dots of me having purchased this movie twice, it will probably come as no surprise that I enjoy this movie.  I found the movie to be pretty well-written with well-developed characters.  I’m not sure how much of any of this credit goes to the writers of this movie or to Arthur Conan Doyle though.  I know he developed the characters originally, but I don’t know how much of the stuff in this movie is from his stories because his stories were written and Homie don’t play that.  But it doesn’t really matter.  There are already 20 writers on this movie, so credit is already getting spread pretty thin.  My favorite thing about the movie is how well they keep the question alive about Blackwood’s magical powers.  When I first saw this movie, I was asking myself, “Is Blackwood immortal?  Are his methods supernatural?  Or cheap parlor tricks to conceal his true identity?”  Being almost completely ignorant about Sherlock Holmes (meaning that I had never read any of them, but I knew the name and that he was a detective) I couldn’t be quite sure if it would be out of the question for someone to actually have magical powers in them.  Do they do that?  How am I supposed to know?  Why am I asking you when you can’t respond?  I also don’t know if most of the stuff they use to conceal the things he does as magic actually hold up to real world logic, but I don’t care.  It’s enjoyable.

The look of the movie is also very nice, albeit a bit dark.  Dark is what they were going for, so it’s okay.  It also looks exactly like England looks in my brain.  England either looks like a foggier version of this movie or like Harry Potter in my brain, and I refuse to go there so that it can be that way forever.  Also, I heard a lot of talk about this movie about the fights.  And not so much the fights, but the visualization that Holmes does before he actually fights.  It’s very polarizing, from what I’ve gathered.  I’ve heard people hate it and I’ve heard people love it.  I’m in the middle.  I really appreciate the fights because they’re well-choreographed, but I definitely understand that I don’t really need to see the same exact fight twice in a row.  It didn’t bother me either way though.

The performances were all great in this movie because they got exclusively great people.  Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law work great together.  They have great chemistry and Jude Law plays an excellent straight man to Downey’s crazy and generally funny Holmes.  I had a problem with Watson’s wife, Kelly Reilly, though.  Not the actress or her performance, but the character infuriated me when she threw wine in Holmes’ face for deducing her backstory correctly.  First, he was right and wasn’t saying anything that wasn’t true.  Second, you asked him to do it.  Third, you actually INSISTED that he do it.  Perhaps this was done to illustrate the exact moment in time when the phrase “Be careful what you wish for” was created.  I don’t know of anyone who could take issue with Rachel McAdams though.  I really liked her character in this movie, playing a very intelligent and crafty woman who had once outsmarted Holmes, and also playing it very selfish but with definite signs that she cares about Holmes.  I may have liked her character much more because of her extreme hotness as well.  But it was more than likely both.  But for examples of over the top beauty, you need look no further than the English bulldog in this movie.  That was a gorgeous sumbitch.

I feel a sense of satisfaction based on nothing now that I have finally finished reviewing both Sherlock Holmes movies.  I like both Sherlock Holmes movies.  The writing is well done and the mysteries keep your brain occupied while still allowing it to let the mysteries play themselves out as you just enjoy the funniness of the interactions between Holmes and Watson.  The performances and the look are also well done, and the fights are interesting and exciting, though I can definitely understand some people being irritated by with the parts where they are telegraphed before they actually happen.  Either way, I really dig this movie and recommend both Sherlock Holmes movies for a purchase.  Sherlock Holmes gets “Begging your pardon, my lord, but I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time” out of “In another life, Mr. Holmes, you would have made an excellent criminal.”

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