Month: March 2014

FILM REVIEW: ‘300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE’

‘300: Rise Of An Empire’

Written by: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad

Directed by: Noam Murro

Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green

Story: The story of the ‘battle at sea’ undertaken by Greek general Themistokles as he takes charge against Persian mortal-turned-God Xerxes and their naval commander Artimisia.

 Image

 

‘Why is Themistokles speaking with an Australian accent?’ is one of the first thoughts that comes to mind when watching ‘300: Rise Of An Empire’. Those who have seen the first ‘300’ will remember Gerard Butler slashing his way through a blood bath of guts and glory for an exhilarating two hours. Anyone who expects the same thing when going into the highly anticipated sequel will be extremely disappointed.

Though not the most important part of any film in this franchise, the performances were almost painful to watch. As previously mentioned, Sullivan Stapleton switches in and out of his American and hometown Australian accent and Lena Headey seems to have lost any spark that she had in the first film. The only performance that is somewhat decent comes from Eva Green portraying Artimisia who may been the most viscous female villain we have ever seen on screen.

We may never understand why Zack Snyder decided against directing this sequel, but rest assured his talents are truly misplaced. Aside from missing his individual directorial style, the script is put together poorly: the dialogue is forced and the film is altogether boring. This would be the perfect film for anyone who wants to see 90 minutes of ‘Braveheart’-style speeches which in itself feels like three hours.

The real problem with this movie, though, is the 3D. We get the feeling here that Murro is truly out of his depth here, and not sure whether to stick to Snyder’s rule book of directing, or branch out on his own. He ends up doing neither. More than once you may find yourself thinking that this film would perhaps be just as impressive and perhaps more entertaining if in 2D: there is nothing here that really makes the most of the technology at it’s feet bar a few animated blood splats on the camera.

We perhaps would of appreciated, before watching this film, being told that the most gripping anf exciting action sequences are int he first half hour. With the persistent speak of the ‘battle to end all’, and the ‘death and destruction’ that awaits when they finally meet each other at sea, one is left feeling that this movie is perhaps the most anti-climactic of the last few years. The final battle, if we can call it that, is over in minutes (and yet somehow still wrought with painful quips and interactions between Themistokles and Artimisia).

All in all, ‘300: Rise Of An Empire’ is dull. Aside from a few enjoyable action sequences, all we really have here is forced dialogue, uncomfortable sex, and something that remotely resembles what was formerly known as ‘Sparta’.

 

Rating: 1.5/5

 

OSCARS 2014: WHO WAS THE BEST DIRECTOR?

One more for the cheap seats in the back! In our last post before the 2014 Academy Awards, we want to take a look at who the favourites are for one of the most prestigious awards in the industry!

 

“Best Director”

 

Image 

 

David O. Russell – American Hustle: Missing out on this award last year for Silver Linings Playbook has meant that David O. Russell has come back with a vengeance. Scooping nominations for all four Acting categories, as well as technical praise, American Hustle always looked set to dominate this awards season. Upsets in previous awards shows may have stunted their progress, but this is still a heavy contender. Having said this, it seems unlikely that he will take the prize away from Cuaron this year.

Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity: Head and shoulders above the other contenders is Alfonso Cuaron. While Sandra Bullock will most likely be edged out by other nominees in the “Best Actress’ category, Cuaron’s management not just of her performance but of the cinematography, sound and editing will ensure he is duly rewarded. The only thing that can really hurt Cuaron here is the early release of the movie: this is one of the oldest nominated films in 2014. Having said this, Cuaron sees to have all bases covered: the DVD release of Gravity is perfectly timed to ensure maximum exposure.

Alexander Payne – Nebraska: Payne employed a black and white setting for his film, ensuring that cheaper cameras did not disturb the quality of the shots. His Oscars campaign has been strong, but under the radar meaning this could be a film that is easily forgotten. Further, performances from veterans Bruce Dern and June Squibb seemed self managed, limiting Payne’s ability to actually stand out as a Director.

Steve McQueen – 12 Years A Slave: If anyone is going to upset Cuaron this year, it will be Steve McQueen. The praise for 12 Years A Slave has been heard the world over, becoming famous for being an uncomfortable masterpiece. McQueen employed techniques such as long shots to really drive home his point, making his presence in the film felt. When watching it, there is no mistaking that this is a McQueen film, which really brands his involvement. He could win this, but it still seems unlikely.

Martin Scorcese – The Wolf Of Wall Street: This could truly be a difficult one for Scorcese to nab. Criticised as glorifying a fraudulent rock and roll lifestyle, many people initially shunned ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. Indeed, the Academy could see voting for Scorcese as encouraging this lifestyle, however the film has really picked up momentum lately and is quickly gaining ground. It seems that both DiCaprio and Scorcese are outsiders to be recognised for this project, but the film itself could prove to be a major upset come ceremony time.

 

It Should Be… Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

It Will Be… Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

OSCARS 2014: WHO WAS THE BEST ACTOR?

Oscars day is finally here! With just a few hours to go, we wanted to make sure you had our picks for one of the tightest races run this year. Place your bets on anyone, and you won’t be laughed at. This really could go any way! What do you think..?

 

“Best Actor”

 

Christian Bale – American Hustle: Bale was beaten to the Golden Globe by Leonardo DiCaprio, and unfortunately when combining the two globes categories into one general award for Best Actor, Bale doesn’t stand much of a chance. American Hustle really did well in the nominations, being recognised for all four acting categories, as well as nominating David O. Russell for Best Director (and many more nominations), but public rating of American Hustle has dropped dramatically: it just isn’t going to be Bale who cuts it this year.

Bruce Dern – Nebraska: Film critics cannot seem to fault Dern’s performance in ‘Nebraska’, and the film got nods for both Best Director and Best Actress, however the problem here is that Nebraska has not been widely celebrated enough to garner this type of award. When up against performances that have been internationally praised (and are commercially attractive), Dern’s performance, while flawless, falls short. He may possibly be the most worthy winner, but he will not pick up the Oscar this year.

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street: Leo remains strong as the people’s favourite this year. After four Oscar nominations and zero wins, the general public is keen to see DiCaprio finally grasping a statue. However, it may not be that easy. While DiCaprio’s performance as Jordan Belfort provided both comedy and drama without diverging from reality, he is up against some stiff competition. The Wolf Of Wall Street has been questioned for attempting to ‘glorify’ it’s subject matter, but DiCaprio won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a film: Comedy or Musical. This is a tough one to call, but when placed in the same category as McConaughey and Ejifor, it seems DiCaprio would be an upset rather than a frontrunner. 

Chiwetel Ejifor – 12 Years A Slave: Perhaps the clear favourite to win Best Picture, 12 Years A Slave has garnered many nominations and this is just another. Ejifor provided a strong performance in an incredibly strong movie, however we cannot help but feel that Ejifor is nominated here because of the movie itself, not his performance alone. Take away Director Steve McQueen and his supporting actress Lupita Nyong’O, and we doubt Ejifor would be nominated. He might win this year, but it seems unlikely.

Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club: Losing 47lbs to play Ron Woodruff in this year’s heavy hitting Dallas Buyers Club surely put’s McConaughey as a favourite to win. If he does, he will join the ranks of actors such as Charlize Theron and Robert DeNiro who have radically changed their appearance for roles that have won them Oscars. Despite the weight loss, McConaughey;s performance was certainly solid enough to win him this honour, and a nod for Jared Leto early in the night would probably secure it.

 

It Should Be… Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

It Will Be… Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

FILM REVIEW: “NON STOP”

“Non Stop”

Written by: John W Richardson, Christopher Roach

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore

Story: US Air Marshall Bill Marks is forced to utilise all his training when he believes the Transatlantic flight he is on is being hijacked.

 
Image

 

Looking at Liam Neeson’s career is certainly interesting. After being nominated for an Academy Award for ‘Schindlers List’ in 1994, it seemed that Neeson really was the one to watch and award nominations for ‘Michael Collins’ confirmed it. Fast forward twenty years, and Neeson is an action hero in films like ‘Taken’, and ‘Non Stop’.

Having said this, there couldn’t be a better man for the role of Bill Marks in ‘Non Stop’. Neeson carries this film almost single handedly with an above standard performance considering that this is, to be blunt, just an action movie. Questionable is the only real word for Julianne Moore – while she offers a “fine” performance, her character is for two hours completely inconsequential.

If we remember this fact when watching ‘Non Stop’, then the film is very enjoyable. It is suspenseful enough to keep anyone guessing if they want to play along and moves at an enjoyable pace. Jaume Collet-Saura has done well to deliver what every audience needs: a great way to kill a couple of hours. An array of red herrings will have you changing your mind every five minutes, and perhaps even thinking ‘I thought I was better than this at figuring things out?’.

Newbie screenwriters John W Richardson and Christopher Roach have done an OK job, but it really is OK at best. As much as Neeson tries to salvage this film and it’s seductive concept, gaping holes in the story remain unfilled. What’s more, the final plot twist is unfortunately disappointing. For a film with such a complex prowess and growl from the start, we are left in the last twenty minutes with a teeny meow.

Despite problems with the script, and perhaps the unnecessary presence of Julianne Moore, Non-Stop is a great movie to watch on a rainy Friday night. As long as we do not expect too much, we will be delighted from start to (nearly) finish with an action packed high altitude thriller. 

Rating: 3/5