Friday, 21 March 2014

My 300: Rise of an Empire (Spoiler-free) Review

The comic book movie season is almost upon us, but first we were treated to 300: Rise of an Empire (ROAE). I know the review is late but it's here nevertheless, spoiler-free just in case some of you'll haven't managed to catch the film yet. Is this sequel to the 2006 hit 300 yet another glorified soft gay porno? Or does it attempt to rise above & beyond & become something more...? Read on to find out...

Apparently it seems like the makers of this film have taken to heart the heavy criticism the first film got- not only by way of critic reviews but also from the many spoofs it inspired. ROAE tries to be everything the first film wasn't. Let's begin with the male lead himself- Sullivan Stapleton, playing Greek general Themistokles. Compare him with Gerard Butler & the differences are glaringly obvious- Sullivan is tall, not having an overtly cut physique, but with a personality imposing enough to be believable as a general. No Greekish beard or hair. No thick accent. Kind eyes (unlike Butler's steely, fiery ones). Soft-spoken.
Basically a very relatable & approachable-looking character. This is the general image the rest of the actors seem to have in ROAE, which is a relief. No more is the focus simply on the greased bodies of the warriors but also the emotion & heart of the film. Unlike how in 300, a group of warriors standing in the background always looked like they would strike poses for a photoshoot with Madonna's Vogue playing in the background! This time there's even a scene in which Themistokles speaks in front of the council where he's, dare-I-say-it: Fully clothed! (>)

Now that we've gotten that out of the way let's speak of the director, Noam Murro, who takes the reins over from Zack Snyder (who has co-written this film). According to his IMDb page, Murro isn't really very experienced with the direction game. He doesn't stray too far from the visuals we were offered in the first film. The direction is competent, but as an audience you won't really feel like you're being offered anything new as such.

The story is pretty solid. Based on the as-yet-unreleased Frank Miller graphic novel Xerxes, the film starts with a flashback. We learn how Xerxes came to become the self-proclaimed god-king. It's also nice to see that Rodrigo Santoro gets to act sans-makeup & (lack of) costume so you can truly realize the way that power transforms him into an unrecognizable, ugly being.
The dialogues are very good this time around. And it's not just Themistokles or Gorgo who get to deliver some gems but other characters as well. The dialogues also don't hold back on the tongue-in-cheek lines, making fun of what various spoofs have laughed at- At one point, the Athenians are referred to as "muscle-bound boy-lovers". Also, there's some pretty provocative lines & cuss words this time around that will definitely get the laughs out of you.
I'd like to mention here that there is a subtle mindset shift in the story compared to 300. The biggest example for me was that while in 300 Leonidas makes fun of how sculptors, blacksmiths, etc cannot truly be warriors. In ROAE though, Themistokles recruits a warrior's son, Calisto (>), to be part of his rag-tag army, despite Calisto's father's own refusal reasoning that all he does is write poetry. However, our hero basically tells the father that dreamers can be warriors too.

Now the acting- Stapleton is competent as Themistokles. Sure, he doesn't leave as big an impression as Gerard Butler did, but he still lends well to the role & you find yourself rooting for this guy to win. Lena Heady & Rodrigo as Gorgo & Xerxes respectively are both returning cast members & seem to play out their roles well with ease. It's great to see Lena getting to work with a much meatier role this time AND also getting to kick butt as well.

However, the true highlight of ROAE undoubtedly has to be Eva Green playing the ruthless Artemisia. When she is first introduced you feel nothing but hate for her. It's only after her flashback story is unfolded that you empathize with her & understand where all her rage stems from.
Let's just say that abuse- no matter the form, or whether self-inflicted or from others- can drastically change a person & turn them into something ugly- a shadow of the person they once were & this holds true for Artemisia as well who falls prey to all the seven deadly sins because of it. This is the first movie where Eva has actually made me sit up & take notice of her. Her seductive dialogue delivery, the disdain & wrath she has in her eyes when she looks at the men under her command & her adversaries & the power with which she fights in her action sequences- all these together just make her a complete badass who grabs your complete, undivided attention.

VFX has definitely come a long way since 2006's 300. In 300, you could discern when & where green screen was used. Out here everything is seamless & doesn't take away from any scene whatsoever. My only grouse was the blood- it looks a tad unrealistic compared to how real the bloodshed looked in 300. In ROAE, the blood looks like flowing mercury or something. If they wanted to make it look more stylized, they could've gone about it through better means. Besides that, I think they tried to make good use of the 3D without it being too in-your-face. My favorite scene that really employs the depth of 3D in my opinion is the one you see above, where the camera pans upwards & slowly reveals the grandeur of Athens.

The action sequences were good. Especially the whole scene between just the ships- Great dynamic & it definitely offered us something different on screen. Also the fight sequences with Artemisia are an absolute joy to watch. However my problem was that because of the 3D, sometimes with the close-up action shots, everything feels like it's just whirring past you. The only saving grace is that during the contact shots in a fight sequence (sword gets plunged into an opponent for example), the movement is stopped & then in slo-mo comes back to the normal speed. So you can keep track of what's happening at least thanks to that.

Finally the costumes. I can tell you'll are now thinking: "But what costumes? It's just all capes & leather thongs!" Well, I'm just talking about Artemisia's costumes. Brilliantly designed to reflect the mood of each sequence, they are absolutely gorgeous & Eva Green fills them out nicely. Let's look at some of them:

This (>) is one of the first costumes you see Eva donning in the film. Golden chest plate gives her an aura of royalty while the tassles are just something else! The dynamism they add to the costume is brilliant! Especially since it so happens that she has a lot of walking to do in this sequence.

Each of her battle sequences see Artemisia in different costumes too. Like this one (<). I absolutely LOVED it because that golden strip in the middle makes her look like a cobra ready to strike.

And then there's this final costume (>) that just oozes with badassery. Those golden dinosaur-like spinal spikes are amazingly hot & just add to the overall empowered ruthlessness of her character! Besides these there's also another costume (for which I couldn't find a good enough image online), that's just beyond sexy. One look at it & I at once knew: "Sex scene."

So what is my final verdict for 300: Rise of an Empire (ROAE)? Great story, competent acting (with some brilliant work from Eva Green), entertaining action sequences, good VFX all lead me to give this film a well-deserved 7/10. Watch out for my reviews on most of the comic book or graphic novel-based movies for this year. Especially, who's pumped for X-Men: Days of Future Past already? Huh? Huh...? Lol.

Monday, 10 March 2014

EXCLUSIVE! Jennifer Lawrence Plans Third & (Hopefully) Final Fall for Oscars 2015

[Disclaimer from The Editor: This is a fiction piece.]

It seems two falls aren't enough for Oscar Award-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence. Jared Leto has gone on record saying (jokingly?) that she's completely faking it. But now from our sources it appears this is actually true.
 ^(L) Jennifer wows in her orange gown that she fell in at the Academy Awards 2014. (R) She followed that up with this stunning shattered glass dress for the after-party, deciding to go commando.

Apparently the 23-year-old has already got designers from Dior busy. Yes, you read right- Dior. A concept design for the gown has leaked & our reporter jumped right on the scene. From our sources: "Jennifer came to us with this particular concept she had in mind. It was very intriguing & strange at the same time & we, of course, took it up as a challenge. She said, & these are her words exactly, 'I want a stunning dress that's made of a thousand tears & it has to be tight, as tight as it can get- I mean Victorian-tight! I must fall."

We contacted Jennifer's current boyfriend Nicholas Hoult who she met while filming X-Men First Class. He was reluctant to share at first but we managed to coax some tidbits out of him: "I don't know what's up with Jen. I mean, we all know what a goofball she is & stuff, & she can be so crazy at times [laughs]. We've joked so much about her two-time Oscar-falling performances. I often tell her that I thought the only time she'd ever fall was when she fell in love with me. Apparently that's not enough & she just has to end up making a spectacle of herself at the Oscars. I don't know why really...It's definitely not for the attention 'cos she gets like super-embarrassed about it after. Maybe we're over-thinking this & it could just be the tight gowns & 10 inch heels [laughs]!"

Our source at Dior said that the concept below has been shown to Lawrence. She loved the design but only added: "Tighter. I must fall dammit! And it has to be at the Oscars next year or I'll have to start all over again right from Fall #1! I want to end this at three falls." Our source says that they found all this so incredulous but they have chugged on with the concept & made the changes.

The dress has been dubbed as "Tears of Eve". Apparently someone in the design team is Eva & they thought the name just clicked. Previously, the design crew referred to the gown as "Jennifer's tight-as-hell gown" so this was definitely an improvement. Jennifer was insistent that the gown had to be Kingfisher Blue in color. She decided to also get her jewelry pieces custom-made & added the teardrop design to the earrings & necklace as well. Her shoes will also have the tears on them.

But after digging up this entire scoop on the blue-eyed beauty, this reporter had only one question in his mind: Why? Do celebrities these days go through such great lengths to be noticed & written about? Are they really so full of themselves? However these doubts get somewhat cleared when you think about the answer that Jen gave at this year's Oscars when asked about the fall: "I seriously have no friggin idea why people are making such a big deal about this! I mean, Jared was out there laughing right at my face. [laughs] Seriously guys, it's not like I had a wardrobe malfunction or something."

Whatever be the reason Lawrence is going through these shenanigans, one thing is certain: She must fall. And it has to be at the Oscars next year.

44 Things To Learn From The Very First X-Men Movie

Hey X-nerds! So after a similar X-Men: First Class post that I did in what feels like eons ago (yes, yes, I know I haven't been posting at all lately lol), I decided to backtrack right to the film that started it all- X-Men from the year 2000!

Some of this stuff was tough for me to put down cos I admittedly don't practice quite a few of them :P . Anyways I do hope you'll enjoy the post & hope I don't sound like a preachy asshole here lol. [Note: The points are in order that I observed them in the movie. Images though are randomly placed where suitable.]

1) Give people a chance. Don't jump to conclusions about them.

2) "I'm looking for hope." No matter how grim the situation it's always good to see the ray of light a the end of the tunnel. (It's funny but watching this movie now almost makes it feel like this is now an Easter egg for Hope Summers lol!)

3) In case you do, you need to stop thinking you are better than others. There's always something you can learn from others. Yes, even if they can be as annoying as hell lol. Nobody on earth is superior than another. We're all created equal no matter the race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

4) "I know what you are..." No one knows what another person has gone through. What has been their life's journey that has made them the way they are today? Were they always this way? Is it any of our business to get personal with others just to make ourselves feel stronger & better about ourselves...?

5) "Get out of my bar, freak." Name-calling or labeling. Ugh.

6) It's best not to provoke others. You may not like what you find at the other side of it.

7) Remember kids, don't talk to strangers. Unless you're Rogue & the stranger in question is Wolverine.

8) Sometimes people may really need our help. They may not always ask for it but we can always offer it or recognize when they need it & go help them. After all, you'd like others to do the same for you if you were in need too. So show some compassion! :)

9) Judging others based on where they live, how they look or what they wear. Actually judging others. Period.

10) Even if it's people you dislike the most, you can find the humanity in others within their flaws, weaknesses & the difficulties & hardships they've had to go through or are still going through.

11) When driving, wear your seat-belt.

12) Everytime you fall- get up. Don't wallow in self-pity. So what- shit happens. Move on.

13) The scars that you receive from your bad experiences or past? Yeah, they won't stay forever. Just don't pay too much attention to them when they're fresh. Well, apply ointment- duh- but it's not like you can't go outside with them on you. Bigger deal you make of them, bigger deal others will make about them too.

14) Sometimes when no one you know is around, you'd have to rely on the kindness of strangers in your time of need. Don't feel backward in taking their help. You may get some new insight.

15) Don't hesitate to use your talents to help others.

16) Don't let the way others treat you make you turn yourself into something ugly with "anger & vengeful hate." Learn to let it slide. Most people aren't worth all your energy anyway. So don't channel your energy towards them. Just let go.

17) If we go trying to tear each other apart, "humanity's days will be over..."

18) Don't wage your own war against others. Find other ways to deal with things with a calm head. Also, learn to act on things, not react to things.

19) Shouldn't have pissed off Mystique when she was in school. Senator Kelly found out about that  the hard way.

20) Kids, don't forget your table manners. Toad just doesn't know any better.

21) Sometimes we need to control our tongues when they go wicked. Lots of stuff ends up getting spoken that you may have not even meant.

22) Don't be a "God-fearing" man. Be a "God-learning" man. "Bringer of Light, wisdom & understanding." #MagnetoWasRight

23) "Mankind has always feared what it doesn't understand."

24) You have to go through a whole lot of bad stuff to get to the good (or even great) stuff in your life. But this process is slow. VERY slow lol.

25) You'll truly know what others are going through only if you live in their shoes. Nobody's life is a bed of roses. And you're not a special case where all the world's problems converge.

26) Sometimes we inadvertently (or purposely) hurt others & then they hurt us back. And this tiresome game goes on where nobody is a winner.

27) Don't be naive & so quickly trusting of people- they may turn out to be a shapeshifter. :P #MystiqueAsIceman

28) Learn to exercise & hone your self-control & willpower more.

29) Curiosity killed the Wolverine. #SuperSonicCyclopsBike

30) Sorry seems to be the hardest word (if said sincerely), but it needs to be said sometimes. In this movie it's twice & a third time indirectly (in a sincere "me too").

31) You can't rely on the advice of others all the time. Sometimes "you should follow your instincts."

32) When you truly empathize with someone else's pain, it enables you to not only help them but for you to grow as a person as well.

33) At times words aren't even needed. All someone may need is a shoulder to cry on.

34) Don't take pleasure from other people's pain.

35) "Young people." LMAO! Yes Mags, we can be pretty foolish when we're young LOL!

36) "Still unwilling to make sacrifices. That's what makes you weak."

37) Sometimes you can't do it all alone. Team up! :D

38) In trying to hurt others, you inadvertently also end up hurting yourself.

39) Nobody wants to be alone.

40) Don't expect people who you don't get along with to change & become like you. It's the different personalities of people that make life more interesting.

41) Just be you & if people don't like it, well, then fuck them.

42) Sometimes you need to fight the battles within yourself on your own to come out of it a stronger person.

43) Learn to laugh at yourself. Face it- you've done & continue to do some pretty crazy & crappy stuff.

44) Enjoy the work you do. If not, then go for a job that you do enjoy.

I just realized this also happens to be my first post for 2014 LOL! Hope the year has been treating all you guys well so far & here's wishing you a great remaining year ahead! :D Feel free to post in the comments if there's something you took from the movie that you feel I haven't mentioned out here.
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