Monday, May 26, 2008

300 The DVD review - a must buy or a DVD let down

Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West
Director: Zack Snyder
Genre: Action / Drama / History / War
Rated: R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity.
Duration: 1hr 57mins

Plot: With the mighty Persian army, under the command of the Great King Xerxes, poised to sweep in and conquer Greece, a small band of 300 Spartan warriors - under the command of their King Leonidas - must hold the pass at Thermopylae at all costs.
Notes: This is a fantastic film and I’m definitely going to be picking this up today. 300 will be available on standard DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-ray. Check out my movie review of 300.

The Spartans inspect each baby born to ensure that it is - if it is defective, the baby is destroyed. They raise their boys in the school of hard blows - training in combat, a small boy who lost his weapon wins a bloody lip at the hands of his own father. At the age of 7 years, each boy is torn from his mother and made his own way in the desert, back to a man. Even King continues this rite of passage. At the age of 15 years, be young King Leonidas (Tyler Max Neitzel) drew a wolf in a narrow passage so that it could kill him. He returns to civilization as a king.

A Persian emissary visits Sparta. The king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) refuses to be part of Sparta King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) empire, and kills the messenger. Later, while Xerxes army approaches, Leonidas must consult the oracles to get their support before sending the Spartan army in the battle. He explains his strategy (to repair the wall and defend at Hell's Gate) to the negligence of priests. The word of the oracle (a drugged teenager who spoke in languages for the priesthood) is not favorable. Leonidas leaves angry, and we learn that priests were bribed with Xerxes "or via the Spartan traitor, Theron (Dominic West), give a negative answer.

Leonidas reluctant to defy corruption pure and simple clergy, but his wife (Lena Headey) encourages him to get off the beaten track. Leonidas chooses to take 300 men as his "bodyguard" to the strategic location. His wife said goodbye, telling him to return with his shield or on it, and give him a necklace.

On the road they meet certain allies, who are shocked that the Spartans are sending such a small force. Leonidas requests related professions of the army, who are the artisans and craftsmen. He said he has given more than they soldiers.

They arrive at Thermopylae, severe storms and destroy some fleet of Xerxes. However, it is only a small percentage of the vast army, they will face.

Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan), a man horribly disfigured, comes to see Leonidas to warn of the goat path to the back of his position. Ephialtes argued that his parents fled Sparta to save his life child, and hopes to exchange them by fighting for Leonidas. However, it is unable to lift his shield high enough to properly defend his fellow warriors. Leonidas gently told him to take care decreased. Ephialtes fondest hopes are crushed.

An emissary arrives, and noted that the organs of the previous party now screening is part of the great rock face. The Persian their arrows blot the sun, and the Spartans agree, they will simply fight in the shade. The emissary of the party is killed. The next visitor is Xerxes himself, but Leonidas refuses to bend the knee and his cult "divinity".

Xerxes sends his personal guard masked "Immortals", which name the Spartans also be false. However, some of the brave warriors are killed, and it becomes clear that others will follow. Ephialtes goes to Xerxes, and agrees to show them the goat path in exchange for a uniform, as well as promises of women and wealth.

When they learn they are betrayed, they know that their struggle is doomed to failure. Leonidas sends a man home to Sparta say what happened.

Back in Sparta, Queen Gorgo tried to convince the Council to send aid to Leonidas. A friendly take the necessary steps to advise his word, but says she will Theron on its sides. Theron agrees to help if she goes to sleep with him - so it does. Of course, in the Council Chamber, it does not support it, but instead accuses her of adultery. However, it gets its revenge.

Surrounded by the Persian army, Leonidas withdraws its head, drops his shield and fell to their knees. It seems he has given. Suddenly he gets up and launches his hurls to Xerxes. It is tearing the side of the cheek. Leonidas dies in a hail of arrows.

A year later, Sparta sends thousands of men and Xerxes is managed by Greece.

Now Unto the reviews

A two-sided piece of art, 31 March 2007
Author: gus495 from Netherlands

This film isn't for all people. That's to say about a lot of movies in general of course, but this one in particular brings up a big clashing point between critics; What do we want to see in our movies? What is more important, to portray a fictional setting for the sake of giving people a mind blowing visual experience or to amuse and amaze them with clever plot twists and intelligent dialogs?

First lets analyze what exactly this film is made of. Basically, the whole thing is just one epic fighting scene after another. Most noticeably is the camera work and the visual effects. Every shot seems like it was intended to be a work of art. The colors, the characters, the costumes, the backgrounds... every little detail has been given so much attention. During the big fights you'll also instantly notice the unique editing. There are a lot of "time slowdowns" throughout the battles which show what exactly is happening. Fatal wounds that slowly leak blood spatters in the air, decapitated heads traveling in slow-motion across the screen... it's all there.

The story on the other hand isn't very complicated, in the sense that the whole movie could probably be described in a sentence or two. The dialogs are simple and most often talk about moral values like freedom and honor. If you would look at the script, it would probably look like another movie that has nothing more to offer then idealistic visions of how life should be.

Reviewers of this title seem to be split up in two groups. They either love it with passion calling it an epic movie of the 21th century, or hate it even more and throw it off like a piece of garbage consisting of mindless action and silly cliché phrases. I feel reluctant to take a position in this argument. Normally it's tolerable to weigh out both sides of this matter to result in a fair judgment about a movie. Not in this one. On the one hand the visual are surely among the best to be witnessed in a movie. Every detail, every background, every special effect set to the scenes are so mindblowingly stunning. On the other hand the plot and dialogs are of the most simplistic and quite frankly dumb kind. "I fight for freedom! I'd rather die in honor then live in shame!" Sounds familiar?

Of course it could be debated that this movie was never intended in the first place to have a unique plot that makes your head spin. But from an objective point of view it's still lacking in this department, so it should be noted.

Now that's fine and all, but does that all make of the film? Is it worth watching or what? I think it is. For me the good outweighs the bad by miles. From the second the movie started it grabbed me and didn't let go. Every battle, every scene of the movie had me at the tip of my chair. Everything from the strong acting to the wondrous visuals to the war-shouts of the soldiers was just so stunning... it was truly a wonderful experience.

I did not one single moment felt like the movie lacked anything. But I could imagine why other people did.

So here's the deal.

If you are easily impressed by beautiful landscapes, wonderful camera-work and editing and powerful acting then go see this. Right. Now. You'll be missing out if you don't. There is so much to see, so much power in the way this comic is translated to the big screen... It'll leave you in awe.

However, you are looking for a good story, clever plot twists, some innovating to the world of the movies then skip this. 300 contains nothing of this, nor does it wants to give you this.

I enjoyed this movie so much, but I know there will be people that will pass of as rubbish, and that's understandable. Just be sure to make up your mind about what you want to see when you go to the theater yourself instead of being drawn into bias by the tons of reviews this site has to offer.

Chills!, 13 March 2007
Author: deadmonkeys from Ottawa, Ontario

After I saw the teaser for 300 I knew I HAD to see this movie! From then on I avoided all other previews, reviews, etc. as not to influence my expectations of the movie. I then went into the theater on opening night with no knowledge of the plot... only that it had something to do with Greeks and Frank Miller! Ignorance is bliss! I was absolutely blown away. I'm a 26 yr old female who generally doesn't watch violent films... but I found the battle scenes so well done and breath taking. I had chills and goosebumps virtually the entire film. I'm with many other reviewers, who felt like they had to contain themselves from shouting "yeah!" at times. Maybe I'm crazy, but I thought the whole movie was very sexy and passionate, whether it was the sex scene, a battle scene, or Leonidis addressing his men.

I think it is a shame that so many people are condemning this movie for it's historical inaccuracies, or it's "racism", etc. People are reading far too into this movie. Whatever happened to enjoying a movie simply because it is entertaining and pleasing to to the eye? Don't people watch movies anymore to escape from the daily grind of life? I know I'm not as well spoken as many who have posted here. I just think this was a fantastic movie. I didn't go see it to learn anything! I just wanted to be entertained! And boy was I!

Much worse than the trailer, 10 March 2007
Author: EdWont from Youngstown, Ohio

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

In a word: disappointment.

I was one of the fanboys who loved the graphic novel, and watched the trailer on repeat for months. I'm half Greek and love action and comics, so I was superbly amped. Sadly, the movie fell so short of the mark that I was immediately reminded of how I felt after watching Star Wars: Episode I for the first time. I left it thinking, "I liked it? It was good? Right?" But I knew that it wasn't. Here are some of the ups and downs.

Let's start with what's good in the feature. The battle scenes are spectacular. The choreography didn't hinge on speed as much as it relied on visually stunning, artistic brutality (it sounds like an oxymoron, but it applies in this context). The timing during these scenes was unique, too. The motion sped up and slowed down in a way that really complimented the film. Of course, the entire movie is a mindblowing visual experience: The art direction and cinematography were stunning. This is especially true of the costuming and "creature" effects. My favorite aspect of the art direction was this profound grittiness (manifested in the dirt, bloodshed, contrast, and other details that were brought forth because of the filming technique) that almost became a character in itself, contributing to the harshness of the plot. All these things were simply standout.

Now, for the reasons I gave this film 3 out of 10 stars. The plot aspect of this film was practically nonexistent. In terms of character development, not only was it predictable, but almost tragic that they didn't pursue other avenues. I especially mean this when referring to the Queen Gorgo subplot that wasn't bound by Miller's original concept. There were a variety of plot holes including, but not limited to, the end of Gorgo's subplot in which it's revealed that a traitor was carrying evidence of his crimes on him for what we can assume was the entire movie, when there's no plausible reason as to why he'd be carrying the evidence. Given the precious little plot in the film, it's sad to say that any plot holes exist. The acting was pretty terrible, spare the less demanding guttural shouting of the Spartan warriors, but I can't really fault the actors given that the writing was so, so painfully bland. Even when there was a "rallying, morale boosting" speech, as is a staple for these films, it was so upsettingly cliché' that I found it agitating to watch. What was most troubling was that the entire movie was seasoned in an all-to-blatant hyper-nationalism. It was hard to enjoy this film without examining it from a modern context because of the frequent use of the word "freedom." It was being thrown around like it was conservative talk radio. At one point one of the characters even said, "freedom isn't free." I have no problem if filmmakers wish to make patriotism a theme in their film (indeed, the historic events lend nicely to such a theme). However, they did it so straight-forwardly that it dumbed the movie down a great deal. And yes, the Spartans founded the term "laconic" but they were at least witty. Had it been more subtle or brought about in a more refined way (as opposed to the hero simply spouting about freedom and its virtues repeatedly throughout the film) then it probably would've contributed a great deal to the movie.

All in all, this has a lot to offer in terms of eye-candy. But, it has so little substance that it's aggravating to watch. Something didn't click, and it's apparent. It feels like they could've done more with it. That's why it's aggravating. That's why it's a disappointment.

A let down and I wasn't expecting much., 23 March 2007
Author: idw42 from United Kingdom

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

OK the first thing to realise with this film is that thinking about it in historical terms is a bit of a waste. So I'm going to skip over that, even if Zack Snyder is on record saying it's ninety percent accurate. I went on it's release yesterday expecting a cheesy yet entertaining action flick.

I was sorely let down. First the good points, well point. It is visually well conceived in a limited way. The contrast in colour between Spartan red and the Persians and so on is well played with. Likely down to Miller's original work. The action was also well choreographed. Gerard Butler was also very good at Leonidas.

OK that's the good points. As for the bad: It's 117 minutes long, played at normal speed I'm estimating there's about 65 minutes of footage. It was really over doing the slow-mo. Fair enough in battles or to add emphasis to important moments, but it was used for literally everything. I'm walking somewhere, oh add some slow-mo. I'm thinking hard, yeah that's some slow-mo. I'm looking at the ground, what's appropriate? Slow-mo? The emissary is riding into town, you got it, in slow-mo. Then there was the slow-mo sex scene which was just embarrassing to watch.

The dialogue is just the cheesiest I've ever heard. It's not even entertaining in an Arnie kind of way. It's just bad. "I never had a chance to tell my son I loved him" being a real low point. Any scene that wasn't a fight was poorly done and just made to divide the fights up a bit.

The soundtrack was incredible. It fluctuated from industrial metal like the trailer's use of Nine Inch Nails to flat out stealing parts of the Gladiator soundtrack. Seemingly at random. Some of the acting was pretty bad, the Queen's speech to the council standing out as unbearable. That might have just been the dialogue she was given though. Or the voice that David Wenham(Faramir in LotR) was doing. Speaking of which I'm sure Ephialtes was meant to sound identical to Gollum. Some of the plot was really badly explained. If I wasn't a history buff the mere fact that Persia was invading would likely be confusing. Though I guess it's just good vs. evil. Or why on earth the Persians didn't destroy Sparta but waited a year. It was the naval battle of Salamis in history obviously, but it's not explained at all in the film. Or that they spend time setting up that Spartans fight in phalanx formation and are dependant on the men to their sides, yet spend the whole film fighting in very elaborate loose formations so they can show off. It also makes a joke of Leonidas' reasoning for turning away Ephialtes. Or the fact that the last speech about fighting mysticism and tyranny sits ill with a nation who apparently didn't fight because their gods said no and were ruled by a king. It just doesn't make any sense.

OK that's what the cheesy action film loving part of my brain had to say.

The more serious critical part can't really complain as it's a comic adaptation, which I assume like Sin City is frame for frame identical. But it does make me think; what on god's green earth was Frank Miller thinking when he wrote this?

I just can't see it. He's taken the Spartan's and twisted them into paradigms of human virtues while utterly dehumanising the Persians. There just seems to be no reason for turning the Persians into zombies and monsters, or for setting out that the Spartan's had some form of democracy. The Ephores weren't priests they were veteran Spartan warriors who were over 60 and voted in for year long terms. Sparta had 2 kings and no council could over-rule them except the Ephores(which is debatable). The Spartan life was dependant on the subjugation of a huge slave class. To try and add western values of liberty and freedom is just crazy. Especially to make a set of two dimensional characters which are essentially just mouth pieces for modern western values. It also seems bizarre as the Athenians who at least embody some of our values are quite shabbily treated by the story. As the whole campaign hinged on them and their sacrifices, not the Spartans who were being quite selfish about not defending their fellow Greeks. There's no mention of the thousand Thespians who fought to the last along side the Spartans, or all the Helots(Spartan slaves) who were forced to fight to the last with their masters. The treatment of the Persians is just shocking, they're either not human, horribly deformed or more alarmingly simply just Asian, oriental or African. I just can't see why he chose Thermopylae or why he chose to leave it so shallow.

Small details like fighting in thongs is forgivable as it's just a stylistic choice, mimicking renaissance art especially. But this stuff was really thematically crazy stuff.

Yeah so it's bad from a more critical point of view as well, it's also kind of worrying and disturbing from this point of view.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Golden Compass DVD now available - Hot Review

The Golden Compass DVD now available - Hot Review

It was no ordinary life for a young girl: living among scholars in the hallowed halls of Jordan College and tearing unsupervised through Oxford's motley streets on mad quests for adventure. But Lyra's greatest adventure would begin closer to home, the day she heard hushed talk of an extraordinary particle. Microscopic in size, the magical dust- found only in the vast Artic expanse of the North -was rumored to possess profound properties that could unite whole universes. But there were those who feared the particle and would stop at nothing to destroy it. Catapulted into the heart of a terrible struggle, Lyra was forced to seek aid from clans, gyptians, and formidable armored bears. And as she journeyed into unbelievable danger, she had not the faintest clue that she alone was destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle... Written by Krista

In a parallel Oxford, young Lyra Belacqua begins a dimension-crossing odyssey that builds from a merely atypical children's adventure into a complex (and frequently quite dark) philosophical epic. Written by Tom Aylward-Nally

Lyra Belaqua, living in Oxford's Jordan College, is not but a young girl living among scholars. Her world may seem diverse, from physical embodiments of souls that take the shape of an animal, but similar with people around you to become friends and enemies. She is thrown into a perilous adventure when she overhears a conversation of an extraordinary microscopic particle, Dust. This particle is said to unite different worlds, and is feared by many who want to destroy it forever. As Lyra is flung into the middle of this horrible struggle, she meets wondrous creatures both big and small, and villains who are not what they seem. Gobblers, that kidnap children, will turn out in the most unexpected places. And a magical compass of gold that will answer any question if one is skilled enough to read it. Lyra's adventure continues throughout these three books, and the first is about to be told. Written by Reaz

People and Critics Review Golden Compass

Good acting and special effects. Poor storytelling, 4 December 2007
Author: richard-kurtz from United States

I have not read the book so I can't comment on how close the movie follows it. However, as a movie, it is so poorly edited to be barely comprehensible. The whole movie seems like every other scene has been cut out. Characters and situations are not explained, relationships are not developed, and the plot is left with gaping holes. Fans of the book will, no doubt, be able to fill in the details. For the rest of us, I would not bother. This is a shame because the acting is good and well-cast. The special effects are equally impressive. If the movie had lasted another hour, it probably would have been terrific. Hopefully, a director's cut will be released some day that redeems this travesty.

Hugely enjoyable and entertaining, Only a slight let down., 25 November 2007
Author: Mr-Subtle-Mouth from United Kingdom

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

I watched the film expecting the worst… and I was surprised. The film opens in cinematic fashion with a voice-over by Eva Green explaining dust and parallel worlds. I think it was digestible for anyone who is a non-familiar. Next we move into our own world, the true Oxford of London. Then in a seamless and beautiful effect, a wave of light shimmers across the screen, and we enter Lyra's Oxford like something out of Doctor Who. It's a visually stunning opening that suggests great things lie ahead. Next we are thrown into a wild children romp like something out of Lord of the Flies, with Lyra, Roger and pals against the Gyptian kids. And here enters the star of this movie - Dakota Blue Richards. From the start to the end she perfectly embodies all the cheek, all the inquisitiveness, all the curiosity, all the fight, all the courage and all the heart of Lyra. I think she is the heart of the movie and the best thing in it. In the Oxford section of the story is some of the best scenes in the movie. No big action sequences just intimate moments between the characters. Lyra and Rogers respect for each other is made abundantly clear. Daniel Craig is on superior form as he presents his findings at Jordan college. And Mrs Coulters entrance and icy exchange with the Master, sent chills down my spine. Kidman delivers the line, "Let me deal with Asriel" with such unbelievable venom. Nicole Kidman has been burdened by a few flops recently. I can report the iconic actress is back where she belongs. She is sinister and stunningly beautiful in equal measure. I thought the movie was going down a path of perfection right up until Lyra's escape scene. This is where the story starts moving very quickly. To illustrate my point; Lyra runs away, gets attacked, is saved by the Gyptians, asks the Gyptians to take her North and its all aboard the ship in about the space of 15 minutes. This is all very exciting and full of adrenaline but as a book fan, i don't understand why they are in such a hurry. The movie continues to move along at a quick pace barely giving you time to breath. Its really a good thing and a bad thing. You could say it's a good thing because as a result it holds your interest. However non book readers would be easily lost if they decide on a 2 minute toilet break. I'm a fan of thrillers so I like frantic and quick paced, however in the case of this movie it would have been nice if they had just slowed things down now and again, because like the Oxford scenes proved, intimacy between characters is Weitz strong suit. I also thought there where scenes missing, like it was filmed to be longer, but either by Weitz hand or by New Lines, some scenes where lost. One such scene is Lyra crossing the Ice Bridge. People who have read the book will know that Lyra crosses the bridge in pursuit of Lord Asriel and Roger. In the film this bridge now leads to Bolvanger. But it was evident to me that when they filmed the scene, it was still leading to Lord Asriel and was intended as a farewell scene to Iorek. Overall the scene I loved the most was the Bear Fight. Though I had one complaint. While the animation of Iorek and Ragnar is astounding, unfortunately a few of the surrounding bears who watch the fight appear to have been rushed and not given the same time as Iorek and Ragnar. Though most of the time your attention will be focused on the fight. All the Oxford scenes are pure perfection, the scene of Lyra riding Iorek and finding the severed form of Billy Costa is brief but chillingly effective, the battle at Bolvanger which is suitably brutal and action packed and the final scene. While I still missed the books climax, the movies end is still satisfying. On board Scoresby's balloon we are treated to a heart wrenching scene between Lyra and Roger. Roger exclaims with all his sincerity that he would travel to the ends of the world with Lyra, and Lyra says just let them try and stop us. Book familiars will know why this is heart wrenching, because we all know Rogers fate. The films conclusion worked because the re-union of Lyra and Roger was emotionally satisfying, but I think the books climax would have lifted it to greater strenghts. What I didn't like; it was too short, Kidman and Craig don't really get enough screen time, Mckellens voice, rushed at times, evidently missing scenes and the Magesterium just isn't sinister enough. Its a fantastic fantasy adventure that will be enjoyed by most. Its just aggravating knowing that it could have been even better. I also think it is infinitely better than both Narnia and Potters first cinema outings. How - Well the Daemons are so much more full of life than the talking creatures of Narnia. If you have a good eye you will notice that the Daemons are rarely ever static or simply shot fillers in a scene. They are alive. The original material of the book is much better realised and visualised than Potter. But they are not the most important reasons. For me it is the young lead(s) that makes the difference. The Potter trio were not great and the Narnia kids were agonising. But Dakota Blue Richards Is excellent. She is the heart and soul of it.

FINAL VERDICT: A hugely enjoyable, entertaining movie,astounding visual effects, perfect performances and action packed. If it had been 30 minutes longer, book ending kept , more screen time for Kidman and Craig and less meddling from New Line, it would have been a masterpiece!!

Surprisingly Good, 1 December 2007
Author: impairedproductions from United States

For some strange reason, a theater in the middle of the cornfield in Indiana had a sneak preview of the Golden Compass, and being a fan of the books I decided to take advantage of it. I wasn't sure what I was getting into, as there seems to be a rather large glut of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings wannabes crowding theaters now and in the near future. This version of the Golden Compass beautifully brings the books to life and was very pleasing to watch with rather nice visuals. The acting is quite good, especially from the young lead, and the animation makes one wonder what they can't do with computers these days. The only true complaint I have about this movie is that it is difficult to understand and follow if one is not familiar with the books. Some scenes at the beginning seems disconnected, but after the halfway point the story comes together. The Golden Compass series is rather dark in its nature, and I'm glad that the movie didn't pull any punches with the supernatural combat (which is awesome, specifically when the witches and bears do battle). Some liberty is taken with the story as expected, and many church references are renamed, but the quality of the story never suffers. I recommend the movie and I look forward to seeing the rest of the trilogy completed.

The Golden Compass DVD now available
The Golden Compass DVD now available
The Golden Compass DVD now available
The Golden Compass DVD now available
The Golden Compass DVD now available