If you liked the first 300 from seven years ago you’ll probably like this. It’s very similar but also kinda by the numbers with one exception: Eva Green. Eva stands out among all the cookie cutter Greeks and even holds her own against the God-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) who has little screen time much like the first film.
This movie starts before the original 300. Artemisia (Green) is Greek but saw her family murdered and herself taken as a slave by a rival city-state but was rescued by the Persians with whom she is now aligned. They trained her in the arts of war and she soon became a favorite of the king. The movie begins with the battle of Marathon where Athenian Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) kills the Persian King Darius (Igal Naor,) father of Xerxes. Upon his deathbed Darius realizes the error of his ways but Artemisia manipulates Xerxes into becoming the God-King we saw in the first movie. With both of them seeking revenge against the Greeks, Xerxes for his father’s death and Artemisia for past injustices, the Persians go to war with Greece.
Themistokles is a mostly realized character. He splits his energies behind uniting Greece and naval strategizing. He also give a lot of inspiring speeches a-la St. Crispin’s Day. He tries to get Sparta’s navy to join in against the Persians but Queen Gorgo (Lena Hedley) speaking for Leonidas (Gerard Butler who does not return but is shown in flashback with scenes from the original) denies him. Sparta’s fleets would ensure victory over the Persians and unite Greece but Themistokles and his navy must battle without them.
This is the setup. A small force against impossible odds. Themistokles uses clever strategies to defeat his opponents, hand picked Admirals eager to gain Artemisia’s favor. With his victories Artemisia sees a worthy rival. Eva plays Artemisia very coolly. There is fire and passion but it is controlled and calculating. Does she end up wanting more than revenge?
The gore and the way the movie was shot, with it’s hyper slo-mo violence was innovative seven years ago but is quite the standard now. Still it gets a marginal pass mostly for Miss Green’s performance. Is there the possibility of a 303? I’m guessing so.
Seen quite a few movies over the past weeks. I was sick for the end of December and the first half of January but I finally got around to seeing things with The Lego Movie. Of course many will realize I did not see a movie in theaters in January but there you go.
The Lego Movie
With a strong 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, I thought The Lego Movie would be spectacular. It wasn’t. Which is not to say it was bad it just wasn’t what I would expect from such a high rating. There was nothing bad and enough good parts that it is hard to give it a bad review. I would easily recommend it and anyone not liking it probably can count the number of movies they like on two hands.
The Lego Movie is about Lord Business, an evil overlord who is set to control all of Lego Land via the artifact, kragle, but can be stopped by a prophecy of a Master Builder who will find the block that will stop the kragle. Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) who is the most bland, conformist, average, unimaginative person there has ever been. While everyone conforms, everyone else at least has one distinguishing trait. But not Emmet. He ends up being mistaken for the Master Builder of the prophecy and goes on a great adventure in trying to stop Lord Business. Emmet discovers himself and who he can be in this adventure.
The movie takes an interesting meta turn at the end which is hinted at throughout the movie, particularly in the kragle. I won’t spoil it but it feels like a cheat or a bit of deus ex machina. Still even the ending was well meant and emotionally compelling and the rest fun.
I saw the first Robocop in theaters in high school and later as a midnight movie in college. In high school I was too young to understand the satire but found the hyper violence quite cool. In college, the violence was still cool but the satire made it amazing. This PG-13 remake neither has the satire nor the violence. It’s probably more violent than the original but by today’s standards it’s just average.
Before my viewing I posted “Why would anyone go to see a PG-13 Robocop?” to which one of the responses was Joel Kinnaman (Alex Murphy/Robocop). But he doesn’t do it for me and there wasn’t enough Abbie Cornish (Clara Murphy) to keep me interested. There were attempts to modernize the satire. Samuel L. Jackson (Pat Novak) plays a TV News show host clearly in bed with OmniCorp but he is the only real attempt at some fun. The rest of it has that grim re-imagining that prevails among modern films. The actions scenes are fine but overall not worth it.
The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are almost synonymous but Hayao has only directed about half the studio’s output and The Wind Rises is his last film. Miyazaki’s love of aircraft is well known and this loose biopic is about Jiro Horikoshi who was the chief engineer of many of the Japanese WWII fighter planes. There are moments of fantasy and wonder but for the most part it is truly an expression of Miyazaki’s love of aircraft and of the hard work and dedication it takes to become great. I don’t necessarily share either of those fascinations but it was still a good film.
We start by seeing Jiro’s dreams as a child. He shares a dream world with Giovanni Battista Caproni, a famous Italian aircraft engineer, where they can see each other’s ideas. Some truly fantastic flight imagery is presented when Jiro is in this dream world. We move to him traveling to Tokyo where he meets Nahoko Satomi when their train is impacted by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. He gets her home and then runs off to assist his fellows at university but she never forgets him. He is a great engineer, able to visualize the strengths and flaws of aircraft and quickly rises at Mitsubishi designing planes. By chance he runs into Nahoko again and they fall in love and get married. The movie doesn’t try to judge or portray Jiro in any light, just document his view of the world.
Technically the animation was amazing. Whatever CGI was used was not noticeable by me. Animating reflections of headlights on a wet, cobblestone road in the rain you would think they’d have to use CG but I couldn’t tell.
In the three months Frozen has been out I have heard much about how good it was and it lived up to everything. Of the four movies here, Frozen is easily the best. If I’d seen it last year, it would have been a good nominee for fave film.
While Elsa (Indina Menzel) is being promoted as the Disney Princess, the real star is Anna (Kristen Bell,) her younger sister and also a Princess I might add. We get to see most of the film through her eyes. The movie starts with young Elsa and Anna playing and we discover Elsa has ice powers. An accident almost kills Anna and Elsa spends the rest of her childhood avoiding Anna to protect her and everyone else. Their parents (if Elsa and Anna are Princesses their parents are regents) die on a diplomatic mission and eventually Elsa is to be coronated as Queen. Anna, who we have followed up to this stage, is thrilled to meet people and do things while Elsa is the exact opposite. She doesn’t want to meet anyone because she’s afraid she might hurt them.
Elsa’s secret comes out but what happens next is a clever deviation from the standard Disney script. Of course we have humor, adventure, true love and it all ends well — it IS still a Disney movie. But I think this does a good job of summing it up:
The songs are fun and there are enough to call it a musical but the real standout is Let It Go.
The movie excels on a technical level as well. There was a scene where Kristoff (Johnathan Groff) enters a trading post and I really thought it was actually a person coming in from the snowy outsides. The snow was that good.
On the Graham Norton Show last week, Keira Knightley told the story of how Joe Wright, the director of Pride an Predjudice, did not want her for the role of Elizabeth Bennet because she was “too beautiful.” When they met, upon seeing her he promptly told her “oh no, you’ll do fine!” Graham asked if he at least was more polite in how he broke the news and she told him “no, it was pretty much like that.” But it was okay because she got the part.
So Chinese New Year was Friday, Jan 31, 2014. I was going to have dim sum with mother on Sunday thinking the Superbowl would actually lessen traffic and that they would have had the parade on Friday (or at worst Saturday.) Of course they held celebrations on Sunday. When we arrived we couldn’t find any parking and ended up just heading back home and had Red Lobster. Happy New Year!
On Sunday 1/12 (which was in the middle of on-call) I went to Game Works in Schaumburg for book club. We read Ready Player One by Earnest Cline. A small gathering for club, three with a late fourth — all of us in various stages of sick or getting over it. On Tuesday I had a late dinner with comic book friends and on Thursday I went out drinking with the guys from work. There I finally met co-worker John’s wife who was a former baker. She sends many a delicious, sugary pastry in with John and I had joked she and I dated in the past and offended her so badly she was trying to kill me with her sugary delights.
As far as sick goes Sunday I was still under the weather from being sick but by Thursday I was fine. I am completely healthy now. Though today I was supposed to have a doctor’s appointment but it got cancelled. It’s really cold today but apparently it will be colder on Monday, which is when they rescheduled it. Still have not seen any movies since I was sick. Want to see Frozen and this week I, Frankenstein opens. It’s by the Underworld team but has no Kate Beckinsale, much like Underworld 3, but they’re not even trying to have a sexy female lead so I have no idea if I’ll watch this. I have to work on Saturday anyways.
This week has been quite the norm. Stay at home but I’ve been drawing a lot.
Tuesday night was the worst. The tonsillitis, much like a video game boss, got worse and worse through Christmas Eve where everything even breathing felt like daggers on my tonsils. After that everything got better except my tonsils. Thursday I even thought the tonsils were getting better but Friday they wouldn’t stop with the severe coughing attacks. Last night I went to bed at 9 but didn’t fall asleep until 4 because of coughing. I’ve been sleepy-ish today but not as bad as I thought it’d be.
Today is sick day 11 also day 8 of a 10 day course of antibiotics. I feel as good as I was last Thursday. I have washed sheets and clothes and am preparing for getting better. I sorta missed christmas and will probably not do anything for new years. Just need to take it easy until I’m better.
Wow, this sick thing sucks. I’m still hoping to see 47 Ronin as well as Frozen but who knows what I’ll get to. This was an OK year for movies. Gravity was the only film that really stood out. My top 3 (Gravity, The Spectacular Now and This is the End) would have a hard time against last year’s films. However I did very well for books at 12. As usual, thrillers dominate my personal reading. A Dan Brown thriller, two James Rollins thrillers and if I had time I’d have gotten to the just released Preston Child thriller to make it two for them as well. As it is, I still haven’t finished Ready Player One but am very close.
Movies (seen in theater)
Fast & Furious 6
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
The Great Gatsby
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Iron Man 3
Jack the Giant Slayer
Man of Steel
Oz, the Great and Powerful
Rifftrax Live: Night of the Living Dead
Rifftrax Live: Starship Troopers
The Spectacular Now
Star Trek: Into Darkness
This is the End
Thor: The Dark World
The World’s End
World War Z
Bloodline by James Rollins
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Eye of God by James Rollins
Feed by M.T. Anderson
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Inferno by Dan Brown
Level 26 by Anthony E. Zuiker
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Ready Player One by Earnest Cline
Shadows of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zaffon
Two Graves by Lincoln Child, Douglas Preston
The Woman Who Died a Lot by Japser Fforde
Still sick. Did get around to watching this weekend’s SNL with host Jimmy Fallon and musical guest Justin Timberlake. It was pretty good but this digital short was hella fun. I particularly liked the rap and then the old pictures of everyone. I couldn’t even recognize Fallon!
I’ve been hella sick since Wednesday with tonsillitis and even missed two days of work — Wednesday and Friday. I discovered from Wednesday that if I don’t tell anyone I’m gone everyone I work with at the PD assumes I’m doing something for the City and I forgot to tell them. I started a course of antibiotics Friday (yesterday) but of course this past day was the worst and the hypochondriac part of me thinks the tonsillitis is viral and not bacterial cuz you can’t treat viral with anything.
If I was well I’d have seen Frozen this morning and then gone downtown to see Tim Seeley and Jenny Frison sign at Dark Tower and then go to Smoque for BBQ just around the corner. And maybe done some last minute shopping. Instead I slept and coughed and then got my second wind so I made wontons to freeze and take to mom’s for Christmas. (I was careful not to and contaminate things but they’re frozen now and are gonna get the heck boiled out of them so they’ll be fine.) The tonsillitis seems to go in waves like that. I tend to get OK in the afternoon until around 10 or so and then I sleep and it gets bad. Moving hurts, coughing is torture and swallowing is painful.
So I was talking with a co-worker and we were discussing how one would divide The Hobbit into three parts. Having seen the first and knowing the title of the second, the delineations seemed quite clear. This one would be all Smaug and the third, the battle of the five armies. I had joked that it would just be funny if they ended the second movie on a cliffhanger with Smaug about to go off to destroy Lake Town.
And then they did it.
That’s exactly how they ended the second film.
Everything is set up for a great climactic fight. Smaug is flying off to destroy Lake town. Bard has the black arrow. And the film ends. If Peter Jackson was really cruel he would kill Smaug in a stinger after the credits. Maybe he did. I didn’t stay.
There is also no possibility of a “Hobbit Only” edition of the movie. The characters have gone off and done things they didn’t in the books. Filling three two and a half plus hour films means some of the characters get expanded which means not all the Dwarves head into the Lonely Mountain. That’s right, three Dwarves stay behind in Lake Town. Still, there are few men who wouldn’t stay behind if they knew Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel) had a thing for them. Ah, Dwarf-Elf love.
Having said all that, the film is better than the first and I did enjoy it. Just like the first I only saw this in 2D and don’t intend on seeing it in any other format including high frame rate.