Gun to my head, I might be able to say something positive about 300: Rise of an Empire. In a vacuum, I suppose I'd call its aesthetic appealing, its production value impressive, or its giant rhinos kind of cool. But these elements cannot be taken alone, embroidered on a gigantic patch of joyless pain that infests your conscious mind from its inceptive moments on.
It's not so much that the 300 sequel fails at its desired conceit — it gives you exactly what it promises: gore, swordplay, angry sex, halfwit maxims about honor and manliness and the love of the fight. It's simply that its desired conceit is dehumanizing agony. Holding too hard and too long to its mission statement to top its Zack Snyder-helmed predecessor in scope, scale, and spilled pints of blood, Noam Murro's Rise of an Empire doesn't put any energy into filtering its spectacular mayhem through whatever semblance of a humanistic touch made the first one feel like a comprehensive movie.
Now, it's been a good eight years since I've seen 300, and I can't say that I was particularly fond of it. But beneath its own eye-widening layer of violence, there was a tangible idea of who King Leonidas was, what this war meant, and why Sparta mattered. No matter how much clumsy exposition is hurled our way, all we really know here is that there are two sides and they hate each other.
When Rise of an Empire asks us to engage on a more intimate level, which it does — the personal warfare between Sullivan Stapleton (whose name, I guess, is Themistokles) and Bad Guy Captain Eva Green (a.k.a. Artemisia) is founded on the idea that she likes him, and he kind of digs her (re: angry sex), and they want to rule together, but a rose by any other name and all that — we're effectively lost. With characters who don't matter in the slightest, material like this is just filler between the practically striking battle sequences.
But when the "in-between material" is as meaningless as it is in Rise of an Empire, the battles can't function as much more than filler themselves. Filler between the opening titles and closing credits. A game of Candy Crush you play on the subway. Contemptfully insubstantial and not particularly fun, but taking place nonetheless.
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Without even a remote layer of camp — too palpably absent as Rise of an Empire splashes its screen with so much human fluid that "The End" by The Doors will start to play in your head — there's no victory in a movie like this. No characters to latch onto, no story to follow, no joy to be derived. Yes, it might be aesthetically stunning (and really, that's where the one star comes in... well, half a star for that and half for the giant rhinos), but the marvel of its look shrinks under the shadow of the painful vacancy of anything tolerable.
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It's that time of year where everyone is making their lists and checking them twice. Not just Santa, but every film critic – from the film editor of the Walla Walla Picayune and Register to the tween who runs ILikeMoviesSoMuchICouldPuke.tumblr.com – who feels the need to express his or her opinions about the Top 10 Movies of 2012. Everyone thinks they have the final word on taste, but so few of them agree with one another. With the entries on these lists landing all over the place, how do we determine what the best flicks are? Well, we ask every damn critic and figure out where they agree. Yes, this is the Ultimate Top 10 Movies of 2012 List comprised only using lists other critics made.
I took 53 different lists from sources as varied as the New York Times to MySpace (yes, they apparently have someone writing for that treasure trove of embarrassing high school pictures we can't figure out how to take down) and tallied them all up. For each list, the top movie got 10 points, the second best movie got nine points, and so on down the line. For wimps who just listed their top movies alphabetically, each film got three points, because I'm not rewarding those jerks who can't make up their minds. All those points were added up, and those with the highest points win! Well, I included everyone, so there aren't any real losers except for those that didn't make the list at all.
Only lists for movies in general were included, so there's no genre fare like the 10 Best Action Movies, the 5 Scariest Horror Movies, or The 11 Best Joseph Gordon-Levitt Movies That Came Out in August. If there were more than 10 movies on any list, movies 10-20 (or 10-33 if you're the slideshow-happy Huffington Post) were ignored. If you can't narrow it down to 10, then you're just doing the world a disservice. And I only included lists that were actually, you know, a list. Yes, David Denby of The New Yorker, I get that you're so much smarter than the rest of us that you can't be bothered to enumerate your enormous insight into the annual state of the cinema, but reading the whole damn article was just not conducive for my little experiment.
Without further ado, here are the Scientifically Indisputable Top 10 Movies of 2012
1. Zero Dark Thirty: 291
2. The Master: 202
3. Argo: 170
4. Amour: 152
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild: 132
6. Lincoln: 156
7. Moonrise Kingdom: 152
8. Silver Linings Playbook: 109
9. Holy Motors: 104
10. The Dark Knight Rises: 74
Most of these weren't surprises. Zero Dark Thirty was on practically every list I surveyed. For every list Amour or Holy Motors wasn't on, it was in the top spot on another list, thus driving these obscurities up the rankings. The only surprise in the Top 10, really, is The Dark Knight Rises, which jumped into the final slot thanks to prominent placement on several lists, including ones that seemed to favor those that were commercially successful rather than the critics' darlings.
The surprises were really in the films that didn't do better. I was shocked that early favorites like The Sessions didn't get more attention, and documentaries like Queen of Versailles or How to Survive a Plague didn't fare better. Many lists filled their final slot with either a documentary or a foreign film to let the reader know how cultured they are and don't just like popcorn munchers. Either that, or it's a kid's movie to show just how wide and varied their idea of quality is, going beyond weird indies that people lie about seeing at cocktail parties. The most popular cartoons were ParaNorman and Frankenweenie. The latter only got a score of nine but it was probably on as many lists as anything else. The 10th spot doesn't do anyone any favors.
Here are the rest of the movies I found on my adventure.
This Is Not a Film: 70
Life of Pi: 71
The Avengers: 63
Django Unchained: 56
Cabin in the Woods: 35
The Lonliest Planet: 35
Les Miz: 33
Perks of Being a Wall Flower: 28
The Deep Blue Sea: 26
Anna Karenina: 25
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia: 22
Killing Them Softly: 21
Searching for Sugar Man: 20
Rust and Bone: 19
21 Jump Street: 18
The Gatekeepers: 17
The Hunger Games: 17
Magic Mike: 17
Oslo, August 31: 17
Seven Psychopaths: 16
The Grey: 15
End of Watch: 14
How to Survive a Plauge: 13
The Imposter: 13
Cloud Atlas: 11
The Kid with a Bike: 11
Pitch Perfect: 11
The Raid: Redemption: 11
The Turin Horse: 11
The Impossible: 10
Killer Joe: 10
The Amazing Spider-Man: 9
The House I Live In: 9
Not Fade Away: 9
Jeff Who Lives at Home: 8
Queen of Versailles: 8
Sound of My Voice: 8
Waiting Room: 8
Your Sister's Sister: 8
Dark Horse: 7
Monsieur Lazhar: 7
Oki's Movie: 7
Room 237: 7
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2: 7
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present: 6
Middle of Nowhere: 6
Miss Bala: 6
Take This Waltz: 6
Ai Wei Wei: 5
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: 4
In the Family: 4
Invisible War: 4
Wreck It Ralph: 4
5 Broken Cameras: 3
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: 3
The Dust Bowl: 3
Goodbye First Love: 3
It's Such a Wonderful Day: 3
John Carter: 3 (stupid Houston Press)
Safety Not Guaranteed: 3
A Simple Life: 3
The Color Wheel: 2
Keep the Lights On: 2
Neighboring Sounds: 2
West of Memphis: 2
Wuthering Heights: 2
Friends with Kids: 1
Premium Rush: 1
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning: 1
Sources (some outlets like AP, New York Times, and EW had more than one list): New York Magazine, LA Times, E! Online, Guardian, Screen Crush, Access Hollywood, Cinema Blend, Time, Village Voice, BuzzFeed, Atlantic Wire, AP, MTV, New Yorker, SF Gate, Brietbart, The Atlantic, Guyism, EW, AV Club, Time Out NY, Film Comment, Arizona Republic, New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Next Movie, The Movie Minute, NY Post, Slant, HitFix, IndieWire, Total Film, Rolling Stone, AARP, Movieline, San Jose Mercury News, IndieWire, AFI, New Jersey Star Ledger, MySpace, Boston Phoenix, Time Out Chicago: Times Two, Houston Press
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Director Malcolm Lee is re-editing his new movie Soul Men in an attempt to honor his late stars Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes, who both died over the weekend.
Lee, the cousin of moviemaker Spike Lee, insists he won't be making huge changes to the completed film or altering its release date, but he is keen to pay a fitting tribute to his stars.
He says, "This isn't like (Batman film) Dark Knight, where Heath Ledger died while editing was in its infancy; most of our editing is done.
"We'll go back and see if there is anything we can do better... I want my movie to be a tribute to both of them."
Funnyman Mac died on Saturday from complications relating to pneumonia; Hayes died a day later after collapsing at his home in Memphis, Tennessee.
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Actress Brooke Shields was mortified when comics at a recent event made jokes at the expense of late celebrities Heath Ledger, Bernie Mac and Estelle Getty.
The 43-year-old star was acting as a panelist at the 72-hour marathon of improv comedy sketches held at NYC's Upright Citizen's Brigade theater over the weekend, August 9-10.
According to the New York Daily News, Shields became "freaked out" when the stand-ups began mocking the tragic deaths of the actors to get a laugh from the crowd.
A source tells the newspaper, "Everything was going great until three comics came out each playing a dead star. One was playing Heath Ledger as The Joker and he just kept listing prescription pills he had in his pocket. Another was playing Estelle Getty and the third was Bernie Mac's ghost.
"She (Shields) was so freaked out her eyes welled up and she actually bit her nails at one point. When someone pretended to dump Estelle Gettys ashes on (30 Rock actor) Jack McBrayer's head, Brooke got up and walked offstage. She watched the rest of the show from behind a curtain backstage with a grimace."
A spokesman for Shields says the actress left to talk to the writers, reports the newspaper.
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