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Tuesday Movie “Review” – 300: Rise of an Empire

Good day happy readers! Starting this week, I am going to be putting up a review of a movie that is currently in theaters every(ish) Tuesday. I will warn you that I have done little writing in my past, so this will be quite the adventure each week. I will do my best to give an insightful view of each movie I see each week. Also, each film I go see will have opened the previous weekend. So, if you are someone who only goes to see movies on opening weekend, this might not be the place for you to get your reviews. However, if you are like me, and can’t go see movies as soon as they come out, you’ll be in luck. At the end of the review, I will submit my quick takes and final score, so if you find my writing to be as hideous as I think it may be, you can always scroll to the bottom. So, let’s get on with it!

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In 2006 Zack Snyder, for better or worse, changed how period action movies were made. He created a stylised, hyper violent, blood soaked epic with 300. 300 was a defining film for my generation of action movie fans. It made the violence more than bearable on screen, it made you want to stand up and cheer with every slow motion kill. Ever since then, Hollywood has tried to capitalise on that film by putting out movie after movie set in the ancient Greek/Roman era. No movie really was able to capture the essence of 300. There have been a few attempts that just always fall short (Clash of the Titans and its sequel come to mind).

300: Rise of an Empire is the next closest thing to its predecessor that I have seen so far. I went in with pretty low expectations, but came out actually fairly impressed. Keep in mind that this movie is exactly what you expect. It’s a 102 minute gore fest. Noam Murro, taking over the directing duties, does a great job of faithfully recreating the original film’s feel throughout the movie. The battles are all just as over top as you remember from 300, and lend themselves very well to a 3D IMAX screen.

Sullivan Stapleton takes over the lead role as the Athenian leader, Themistokles. He isn’t as much of the chest beating, screaming leader like Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas. He is more interested in uniting the city states of Greece into one nation to fight of the Persian invasion. During the beginning of the movie, he is shown as the hero of the Battle of Marathon, killing the Persian King Darius I. Darius’ son, Xerxes witnesses this, and he ascends to become the God-King that we see in 300.

Rise of an Empire wasn’t so much a sequel to 300, in that it’s story for the most part takes place simultaneously with the story of King Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae. While Leonidas and his 300 Spartans defend the north against Xerxes, Themistokles leads a nautical defense in southern Greece. He matches wits with the commander of the Persian navy, Artemisia (portrayed by Eva Green).

The move to sea for the battles helps this film keep things fresh, and gives us a different perspective from the first film. We are treated to the much smaller fleet of the Greeks out maneuvering those of the Persian war ships. This is the first time I’ve seen a nautical battle take place without any firearms at all. Instead of cannons doing damage, the ships ram into each other.

I enjoyed the overall feel to this movie more than the original, as Themistokles seems to be more relatable. He’s more compassionate than the Spartans that are portrayed. He is more than just a warrior. He’s a leader of men, men who are not trained killing machines, but farmers and craftsmen thrown into battle.

The acting in the movie is passable. Everyone is a little too deadpan when not screaming at the top of their lungs. Eva Green does a good enough job as the villain to make you almost forget that Xerxes isn’t anywhere to be seen for the majority of the film, despite it being based off of Frank Miller’s graphic novel entitled Xerxes. The secondary actors, who are all relatively unknown actors, also do a good job of making you feel the humanity behind the battle.

The movie also lost me for a few minutes with an obligatory sex scene that really didn’t make any sense in the context of the story. It seemed like it was thrown in there just to show some T&A and not much else. This and a few other moments weren’t needed in my opinion, such as the return of the humpback traitor, who serves an no more than a messenger in the film.

Overall, the movie did just what I wanted it to do, entertain me. The story and setting are just different enough from the first 300 that it didn’t seem like too much of a retread. There was more character growth here as well. The action scenes were fun, and even though there are decapitations and severed limbs flying everywhere, it’s not gut wrenching at all. Running at just 102 minutes, it doesn’t run the risk of wearing down it’s audience, and is quick and to the point for the most part.

Score: 6.5 spears out of 10 decapitations.

Direction: B

Acting: B

Story: B+

Pacing: A-

Cinematography/overall visual: A

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Oscar Draft picks!

A few weeks back on our show, we held our first annual Academy Awards Fantasy Draft. I apologize for how long it took me to post these, but better late than never! You can listen to the episode here.

The rules of the draft were pretty straightforward. We randomly generated the order for each category. Just to spice things up, the Best Picture Category is worth double. Whoever gets the most correct, wins.

Anyways, on with the results of the draft:

Best Live Action Short Film: 1. Helium (Jeff) 2. The Voorman Problem (Todd) 3. Just Before Losing Everything (Kyle)

Best Animated Short Film: 1. Get a Horse! (Todd) 2. Room on the Broom (Kyle) 3. Feral (Jeff) NO WINNER

Best Documentary, Short Subject: 1. Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall (Jeff) 2. Facing Fear (Kyle) 3. Cavedigger (Todd) NO WINNER

Best Documentary, Feature: 1. The Act of Killing (Jeff) 2. Cutie and the Boxer (Kyle) 3. The Square (Todd) NO WINNER

Best Visual Effects: 1. Gravity (Kyle) 2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Todd) 3. Star Trek Into Darkness (Jeff)

Best Sound Editing: 1. Gravity (Todd) 2. Lone Survivor (Jeff) 3. Captain Phillips (Kyle)

Best Sound Mixing: 1. Lone Survivor (Jeff) 2. Inside Llewyn Davis (Todd) 3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Kyle) NO WINNER

Best Original Song: 1. Ordinary Love, U2 (Kyle) 2. The Moon Song, Karen O (Jeff) 3. Happy, Pharrell Williams (Todd) NO WINNER

Best Original Score: The Book Thief, John Williams (Jeff) 2. Her, William Butler and Andy Koyama (Kyle) 3. Saving Mr. Banks, Thomas Newman (Todd) NO WINNER

Best Makeup/Hairstyling: 1. Dallas Buyers Club (Jeff) 2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Todd) 3. The Lone Ranger (Kyle)

Best Costume Design: 1. The Great Gatsby (Jeff) 2. American Hustle (Kyle) 3. 12 Years a Slave (Todd)

Best Production Design: 1. The Great Gatsby (Todd) 2. American Hustle (Jeff) 3. Her (Kyle)

Best Editing: 1. Gravity (Jeff) 2. 12 Years a Slave (Todd) 3. Captain Phillips (Kyle)

Best Cinematography: 1. Gravity (Todd) 2. Nebraska (Jeff) 3. The Grandmaster (Kyle)

Best Foreign Language Film: 1. The Hunt (Kyle) 2. The Broken Circle Breakdown (Jeff) 3. The Great Beauty (Todd)

Best Animated Feature: 1. Frozen (Todd) 2. Despicable Me 2 (Jeff) 3. The Wind Rises (Kyle)

Best Adapted Screenplay: 1. The Wolf of Wall Street (Kyle) 2. 12 Years a Slave (Todd) 3. Captain Phillips (Jeff)

Best Original Screenplay: 1. Her (Todd) 2. Dallas Buyers Club (Kyle) 3. Blue Jasmine (Jeff)

Best Director: 1. David O. Russell, American Hustle (Kyle) 2. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity (Jeff) 3. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave (Todd)

Best Supporting Actress: 1. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle (Jeff) 2. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave (Todd) 3. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County (Kyle)

Best Supporting Actor: 1. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips (Jeff) 2. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club (Kyle) 3. Bradley Cooper (Todd)

Best Lead Actress: 1. Amy Adams, American Hustle (Kyle) 2. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine (Todd) 3. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County (Jeff)

Best Lead Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street (Todd) 2. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club (Kyle) 3. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave (Jeff)

Best Picture: 1. American Hustle (Kyle) 2. 12 Years a Slave (Jeff) 3. Gravity (Todd)

Tune into the show on Monday to find out the results!

Kyle’s Spoiler-FREE Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

As a guy that’s seen every Lord of the Rings/Hobbit film in theaters as well as owning them all on Blu-Ray, I knew that I’d be seeing this latest installment as well. Now before the stereotypes enter your head I want to clarify a few things. I’m not a reader. So by not being a reader, I have not read any of the books in the LOTR series or it’s prequel, The Hobbit. I tried to read The Hobbit once in 5th grade and barely got through a couple of pages before I was lost and didn’t care to continue. That being said, I only know & love the world of hobbits, dwarfs, elves, and Gandalf through Peter Jackson’s creations. I’ve seen them all in the theater, once at their own individual time of release, and again when I bought them on Blu-Ray within this last year. 

 

Heading into the 2nd installment of the Hobbit trilogy it’s become more and more hard not to subject oneself to the reviews of critics or friends that have seen the flick, especially since I waited to see it in it’s 4th week of release. I’ve heard from quite a few people that they feel the Hobbit should have just been 1 or 2 films instead of a trilogy but we all know that’s not how Hollywood and money do business together. With those feelings aside, this is a trilogy and I took as such.

 

My actual review of the movie is spoiler-free and pretty scarce but here goes.

I liked it quite a bit. 

 

The movie is more action-packed compared to The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey. I understand that that film had to set up the back story and work up to it but it seemed really long and it dragged. I mean, 45 minutes of dwarfs eating dinner at Bilbo’s house was a little overkill (45 minutes was a total estimate but that’s how long it felt). The Desolation of Smaug ended up being 8 minutes shorter in length but really didn’t feel like it. I’ve seen some other movies lately in theaters that have been about as long but felt like it, this was very different and I credit that to Peter Jackson.

 

Overall I feel that the cliffhanger at the end of The Desolation of Smaug left me craving more where The Unexpected Journey’s cliffhanger was rather lackluster and left me not really caring but knowing I would see the next film anyway. The thirst for the 3rd installment is real though with all the action taking place at the end of The Desolation of Smag. The cast was amazing again. Martin Freeman didn’t steal the show as much in this one to me as the film focused more on Thorin, the head dwarf. The way they made Smaug was pretty neat and the CGI wasn’t even that noticeable. I also had no idea Benedict Cumberbatch was the voice until I looked it up after. Orlando Bloom does another solid job as Legolas and the new addition of former “Lost” actress Evangeline Lilly was great for those hoping for some more elvish eye candy.

 

I fully recommend anyone to see this film. If you haven’t seen The Unexpected Journey, see that first, but you don’t need to see the Lord of the Rings trilogy if you don’t want to. In fact, I recommend this series over that if you didn’t see LOTR because you didn’t think it was for you or that you didn’t want to give into the hype or something. Also, be on the lookout for Stephen Colbert’s very brief cameo. I laughed out loud when I finally found him, Where’s Waldo style.

 

(Only criticism of all of these films in either series is that the spiders and orcs are gross and they creep me out. The spiders are the worst)

 

Unconscious Blogging

Okay, so I am taking our namesake pretty literally here. My issue is that I can’t sleep, and need something to take my mind off of my rambling thoughts. What better way to do that than to just throw them at the internet in a public forum? Now, seeing as this is just me sitting here and typing whatever thoughts I have in my head, I am going to keep this one very informal, and not edit/spell check this post at all. I’m also probably going to end up forgoing writing structure, such as correct punctuation, paragraphs and the sort.

See what I did there? New paragraph even though I just said I wasn’t going to be doing any of that nonsense! I mostly just looked at that first bit there as a disclaimer that I may or may not be interesting in this post. So let’s begin. As of right now it is 3:50 AM local time (central daylight savings that is). I can’t sleep. I’ve tried everything from just lying here with my eyes closed to watching really boring things I’ve seen a hundred times or so (Braveheart). The problem with that is, I always get caught up in the film. I know it front to back. I know what is going to happen and when it’s going to happen. However, I think this is a sign of a truely great film. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, you will stay with it and finish it to the end. These are the films that you stop and watch if you’re flippping through the channels on a lazy day off and watch, even if you have a copy of the movie sitting in your collectiion. Who cares about commercial breaks? Is this not a convienient time to get up and use the restroom? Or get yourself a snack? I find myself jumping on an internet connected device and surfing the world wide web. But as soon as those commercials are over, you are right back in for the ride for another 20 minutes until your next break. Now that I think about it, this is almost a preferred way of watching movies for me. This is assuming that the movie isn’t completely editted down until it’s just a bastardized version of the film I fell in love with. Sometimes though, edits add a new dimension to the movie watching experience. Take for instance the baseball classic Major League. That movie airs on Comedy Central at least once a month (yes, everytime I come across it, it stays on). That movie is even more hilarious with the edits for language. Can I come up with a specific example right now? NOPE. This is what happens when I’m sleep deprived. Back to my original point. Braveheart is a movie I threw in tonight for one of two reasons. It fits a discussion topic for this week’s Stream of Unconsciousness episode, and more importantly, it’s a film I enjoy, but wouldn’t say I love per se. It’s great, don’t get me wrong. I just wouldn’t say it’s a movie that is in my upper eschelon of films I’ve ever seen. So, what captivated me this watch through to keep me up all three hours of the movie? I’m not sure I can nail that one down to a specific reason. Was it because I haven’t watched it in probably over a year? Was it the story? Was it just my mood? Or was it just me coming down from a highly stressed night at work? I’m going to probably go with the combination of all of those factors. But first and foremost, it’s just a good movie. Again, not a favorite. Again, one I’ve seen multiple times. But there’s just something about it that captures me when I watch the film. As I think back on previous viewings, I can’t think of an instance of watching it where I didn’t complete the movie (unless I had other things that needed to get down such as work or previous plans).

4:07 AM Central Daylight Savings Time

Sorry to suddenly divert my attention to other matters. But I’m listening to some music whilst I blog here, and Thistle & Weeds by Mumford & Sons just came up. I don’t know if there’s a better band to come out into the mainstream music scene than this one. They are creative, smart, unique and just damn fun to listen to.

4:09 Central Daylight Savings Time

It’s finally happened! Eyelids are now heavy. Breathing slowing and becoming more steady. My mind is clreaing. I think I may actually be ready to sleep. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. And welcome to my mind. This is not the last time a blog entry like this will occur. Very possible it will be the last one where a decent amount of alcohol isn’t involed though. Before I log off, I want to remind you to tune in to the show this monday! I will be going over my picks and how much I suck at predicting NFL outcomes. I’m sure we’ll be discussing the MLB playoffs. Ther’s also the ever entertaining second hour of the show, where almost ANYTHING can be discussed.

4:14 AM Central Daylight Savings Time

Time to sleep. Hopefully a lucidd dream is in my future. If you haven’t experienced one in your sleeping life, you are missing out. Just a dream, except you are fully aware of what is happening. The first time I experienced one, I noticed something just wasn’t adding up in my dream. Things just weren’t logical. How did I go from point A to point B instantly? Why can’t I read? Why is the light level never changing? I realized I was dreaming. This jarred me, and I woke up immediatly. After a few of these anomalys, I started staying in the dream a little longer. Eventually, I was in complete control of my dream world. It’s amazing! Definatly experience this if you can at some point.

4:18 AM Central Daylight Savings Time

Really don’e this time. Sleep well everyone, and have a pleasant day!

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

(-Jeff)

EDIT:

4:35 AM Central Daylight Savings Time

While the lights were going out in my head, a thought crept in that started to fester. I wonder how easy it is to search for us using google. Initially content with just the thought, I needed to do a search. I just typed in Stream of Unconsciousness. We are on page 22. It brings you to our ‘About’ page… that is all (for now)!