Stunt Granny Movie Review: 300: Rise of an Empire

300-rise-of-an-empireReleased in 2007, 300 was an anomaly. An R-rated sword and sandals action film with starring relative unknowns based upon an obscure graphic novel, Zack Snyder and his iconic style was unleashed upon the world. Striking color schemes, slow motion fighting scenes, goofy scenery chewing speeches, super abs, old fashioned xenophobic savagery – 300 answered the eternal question of what would happen if an 18 year old uber nerd was allowed free reign to make a movie. A retelling of the battle of Thermopylae, in which a small group of Spartan soldiers undertake a heroic sacrifice against an overwhelming Persian army, 300 became a global phenomenon which helped launched the careers of director Zack Snyder, along with Gerard Butler, Lena Headey and Michael Fassbender (yes – he is actually in that movie). Any film that makes close to half a billion dollars worldwide will be mined for a sequel….which would be difficult since nearly all of the principal heroes die in the film.  Yet here we are with 300: Rise of an Empire, the sequel/prequel/interquel

First things first – if you’re a fan of 300, then you’ll probably enjoy this film.  Even though 7 years have passed between the two films, they share the same sweeping, thematic style.  Although not as groundbreaking as the original, Rise of an Empire is a beautiful film, although more muted than the original.  You’ll get plenty of slow motion spear thrusts, jumping sword slices, and every bead of sweat and blood, this time with the benefit of 3D. In fact, unless you engaged in geek research, you would have no idea that Zack Snyder didn’t direct this film, instead only serving as producer.  Instead, Noam Murro takes the helm – but it doesn’t really matter.  Rise of an Empire’s disadvantage is its status as a follow up film, not only being compared to the original, but also shows such as Spartacus.  The action still holds up, but doesn’t have the jaw dropping impact of the original.

Rise of an Empire takes a peculiar approach in regards to its story, serving as almost a visual appendix of the 300 universe.  Ever wonder what caused the Persians to be pissed at Greece, and what the hell the battle of Marathon was about? Any curiosity pertaining to the origin of Xerxes?  How did Sparta handle the aftermath of the death of Leonidas, besides doing crunches and bragging about death?  You’ll find out all of these things during 102 minutes.  Rise of an Empire solves the problem of following the previous film by telling a parallel story, involving the Athenians battling the Persians for freedom, as well as the aftermath of the Battle of Thermoplyae.  Shifting the focus of the stories from the Spartans to the Athenians helps the movie retain a certain freshness.  Instead of asshole brash killing machines, the Athenians are portrayed as noble flawed, yet skilled warriors, fighting for unity and justice of Greece. It’s also a more grounded movie than the original, with less fantastical elements, and a more adult story. As the leader of the Athenian army, Themistocles’ journey of freedom and redemption has more resonance than Leonidas ranting about DEATH AND GLORY while kicking messengers down pits. Personally, it allows for easier support and investment in the story. The movie spends an inordinate amount of time explaining the backstory and desires of the principal characters.  Some may enjoy the added character development, while others will just bide their time into the next set piece.

Anyone who watches genre movies understands that it takes skill to add believability and soul to an often ridiculous setting.  Gerard Butler was the primary reason for 300’s success, and his shadow looms large throughout the film. The movie makes a wise decision in presenting Themistocles as a more human character.  Played by Sullivan Stapleton of Cinemax’s Strike Back, he’s portrayed as a quiet thoughtful warrior wracked by responsibility and guilt, yet resolute in his dream of a united Greece.  My first impression was that he was a bit dull, until I realized that I was comparing him to Leonidas.  In actuality, he serves as the heart of the film, playing a more difficult character.  Lena Headey aka the chick from Game of Thrones reprises her role as Queen Gorgo, basically serving as the narrator of the film.   From her initial haughty arrogance when rebuffing Athens call for help, to bitterness and sadness from her husband’s death, to her eventual resolute fury when seizing revenge, she plays her role effectively. But the star of the movie by far is Eva Green, as Artemesia, naval commander of the Persians and the primary antagonist.  As a Greek who swears vengeance on her own people, I can’t recall the last movie which starred a terrifying, sexy, powerful, psychotic and charismatic female villain.  Every scene is dominated with her presence, almost to the point of her serving as an anti-hero.  Similar to how 300 was the Gerard Butler show, this film is her personal playground.

Watching a violent yet erotic sex scene in 3D in a crowded film is an experience in itself.  If you need one reason to see this movie, then see it for her.  As for the other characters, they serve as bridges from the first film, as well as plot devices to give weight to the primary characters.  I haven’t mentioned Xerxes as a major character, because quite frankly, he doesn’t earn that role.  But there’s nothing wrong with a towering walking Oscar statue prancing around like a prima donna.

I definitely recommend this film.  It’s not without flaws – there’s less humor than the original.  In addition, although it tells a nobler story, it has less weight of consequence due to its status as a prequel/interquel as well as sequel. And it also has a rather infuriating ending.  However, if you like seeing men with 8 packs fighting on burning ships while riding a horse under water, then go see 300: Rise of an Empire.  And seize your damn glory. -Shahid

Jeremy’s One Paragraph Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

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All right now be honest; when you saw the title of this post you immediately thought or said “ yuck.” This is totally acceptable as every trailer for this movie made it look incredibly stupid. I will gladly agree with that sentiment but this movie was fun. Yes the plot is straight up Die Hard in the White House but after that it is a solid action flick. Gerard Butler is best in action movies and he is at his best here. He plays his role with totally sincerity. The movie is totally devoid of any wink or nod to how redundant his situation is. There are no convoluted plot twists. The bad guys are evil and the good guys are good. The movie breaks no new ground but it rolls by at a brisk pace. It was also full of bloody violence that is missing from action movies now. While violence isn’t a prerequisite in film snow it should be in action movies. Bloodless violence is nauseating and “Olympus Has Fallen” makes sure you see the consequences of bullets to the chest, head and legs. Overall, it is just a fun movie to watch.  -Jeremy

Stunt Granny Monthly Movie Guide for March 2013

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Welcome Stunt Granny readers to the first installment of the Stunt Granny Monthly Movie Guide. Each month I will be bringing you a few select trailers for the month’s big releases. Yeah the preview will be full of opinion but then why else are you even bothering reading this site?  Of course in typical Stunt Granny fashion I got a late start so we are only going over the final two weeks of March. Check back around the beginning of each month for more trailers and exposition. Well, if you are interested in that kind of thing. -Jeremy

Olympus Has Fallen – March 22, 2013

Good lord another Gerard Butler action flick. This guy hasn’t made a good movie since, um, 300? Machine Gun Preacher was just meh but not terrible. It is good to see him out of his awful romantic comedies though.  This flick is directed by Antoine Fuqua who has to be one of the most confounding directors in the last twenty years. He has a clear visual style but he allows his movies to plod along. There is just something about all of his films that is never quite right. Something has held him back for years from making a truly great movie. This movie looks to be another in that line of near misses. The plot is typical Hollywood big budget disaster flick mixed with a Die Hard scenario. Ugh, nothing original and judging from the previews nothing we haven’t seen before. Totally skipping this one.

Spring Breakers – March 22, 2013

On the surface this looks like a movie made just to exploit its young stars. You may be correct in this assumption but then you look at who directed this and you have the possibility for one psychotic romp. Yes, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens have found themselves the star of a Harmony Korine film. Yes the same guy that wrote Kids. Yes the same guy that directed Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy and Trash Humpers. The trailer looks like a total disaster but if anyone can tighten up a disaster it is Korine.  It has the potential to be another Hangover like success but the previews that have made it on television make it look more akin to “Project X” and “21 & Over” and that is not a compliment. There is sure to be a healthy dose of satire mixed in with breasts and a whole lot of swearing. Count me in.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation –  March 28, 2013

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was pure garbage. Outside of the costume worn by Ray Park as Snake-Eyes there wasn’t one good thing about the movie.  As an avid G.I. Joe comics, animated series and movies  and action figures it was an insult. The fact a sequel was being made was a shock as it didn’t do strong box office. On top of that the prospect of bringing back in the same people again was plain infuriating. Well, all my fears were settled as they dumped all but a few people from the original and brought in a new producers and director. Gone is the International format for the Joes as they have been replaced with all fan favorites. The results of all this change has given us a movie that looks and feels just like a G.I. Joe comic.  Every preview that has been released has been better than the last and it has successfully built up a solid buzz. Out of all of the movies being released this year this is in my top ten. It looks to be a solid action flick that will appeal to both diehard fans as well as the general movie going public.

The Host – March 28, 2013

So I finally saw this trailer before “Dead Man Down” last night and boy does this look like a snoozer. It has nothing to do with the fact this is written by the broad who wrote the Twilight novels. Hell, the novels may be good. I have no clue but what I do know is the Twilight movies were unwatchable garbage.  Sorry, this isn’t about Twilight. So, from what I gather the world is taken over by beautiful people who like shiny objects. They apparently nest in humans who essentially become hosts. It is an end of all humanity scenario and all we should care about is the true love between two high glossed teenagers? Really? Oh and if this is the future why the hell are they driving cars and not jet cars or for that matter just friggin teleporting? You want to waste your money go ahead. If you are trying to get laid then by all means go see this sure fire crapfest.

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