Friday, March 7, 2014

300: RISE OF THE EMPIRE and NON-STOP Film Reviews


It's "skins versus shirts" or "moobs versus Klingons"; whichever works for you. The Athenian navy, led by Themistocles, in a sea battle against the Persian navy, led by Artemesia.

Artemesia is played with delicious delight by Eva Green and her globulous boobs, of which we do get to experience them in full naked delight -- I imagine the 3D viewers might collapse into puddles...but I digress.

Artemesia is the only reason anyone should go see this other than its glorious splattering blood opera and symphony of ridiculous gore. If you liked 300, you'll probably like this one too although there's something missing. The director (I forget his name) tries desperately hard to copycat Zach Snyder's hyper-stylized 300 style to capture the imagery and frenzy in freeze-framed (or slow-framed) staged comic book splash pages. It works up to a point but then it gets so overplayed it borders on the absurd and becomes silly rather than effective. When pushing the envelope artistically, it really pays to know when to restrain yourself.

The film is an adaptation of Frank Miller's XERXES about the God-King of Persia and the second Persian invasion of Greece. The film gives us the backstory on Xerxes and his rise to kingship (and godhood) after the death of his and Artemesia's father King Darius from a single arrow shot by the Athenian Themistocles.

Now, the way you know this movie is about Themistocles and not Leonidas is that Leonidas wore a red cloak and Themistocles wears a blue cloak. If you can remember that, then you're gonna be all up to speed.

I had a little bit of a hard time following exactly how this timeline fit within the timeline of the first 300. There was so much narrative exposition I was kind of blanking out on it, but I think I kind of figured it out about halfway through when Themistocles was notified of the slaughter of the 300 Spartans (the events of the first movie). So, at first I thought it was maybe a prequel and that this young soldier might've been young Leonidas but then I realized the sea assault was actually happening at the same time as the 300 film, and at the halfway point then shifts into becoming a true sequel continuing the events after the death of Leonidas.

I didn't think the movie was stupid. That's good. I was afraid I was in store for another POMPEII. I think it accomplished pretty much everything it set out to accomplish. The problem is that it didn't have the gravitas of Gerard Butler as Leonidas to carry the testosterone baton and it didn't have the legitimate talent of Zack Snyder as director to really pull off that stylistic imagery quite as well. But it has that one thing that really makes the entire movie worth watching, and that is Eva Green as Artemesia.

Could'a been a lot worse. But they might want to stop now.

★★★ out of ★★★★★


Liam Neeson's bad-ass turn as a depressed, alcoholic air marshall who may or may not be hijacking a passenger flight over the Atlantic is forgettable but fun.

It's a tension-filled ride with Neeson doing his standard growling grumpy-pants action guy as we've all come to know and love. There's none of the twinkly-eyed charm he brought to the role of Hannibal Smith in the A-TEAM movie (an underrated and exceptional action comedy).

There's a slow-burn sort of tensio...n as he gets on the plane already a little toasted and almost as soon as they are over the ocean he starts getting these texts telling him that they will kill one person on the plane every 20 minutes until $150 million is transferred into a secure Swiss account.  The slow burn is that, in ways completely implausible in real-life but believable in the film context, events unfold in such a way that it moves from how's he gonna stop them to questioning whether he might actually be behind it all or be completely batshit crazy himself.

This is definitely one of those movies where you just sit back, grab your raisinets and popcorn and don't question anything. Just enjoy it and get caught up in the thrills and the characters. It's a cool little movie but nothing substantial.

★★★ out of ★★★★★

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