Built from comic book auteur Frank Miller’s (Sin City) rock solid foundations 300 is based on his vision on the 1962 film The 300 Spartans filtered through the same tough-as-nails pulp sensibility that populates most of his comics work. Leaving such leaden wannabe sword-and-sandal epics like Troy and Alexander in the historical dust 300 reworks the real-life legendary tale of the Battle of Thermopylae in which a battalion of 300 elite Spartan soldiers heroically hold the line to protect ancient Greece from the invading Persian hordes. The story focuses on the Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) who must not only lead his small cadre of troops--each one honored since childhood into a razor-sharp battle-relishing warrior—into a battle they are unlikely to survive but he must also fight for the fate of Greece and its democratic ideals. As the bizarre seemingly endless marauding legions of the tyrant Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) descend upon the Hot Gates—a narrow passageway into Greece that Leonidas’ miniscule band can most ably defend—the soldiers take up arms without the usual post-modern anti-war hand-wringing that most war epics indulge in. These soldiers are both bred for battle and fighting a good fight and the film focuses squarely on the highly charged action. Meanwhile in a new plotline created specifically for the movie his equally noble and faithful queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) takes up arms in a more symbolic way as she also tries to keep democracy alive by taking on the political warlords of Sparta to secure relief for her husband’s troops. Butler has become a familiar and welcome on-screen presence in such films as The Phantom of the Opera and Reign of Fire but there has been little on his mainstream movie resume to suggest the kind of bravura fire he brings to the role of Leonidas. This is the stuff of an actor announcing himself to the audience in a major way akin to Daniel Craig’s star-making turn as James Bond. In a big bold performance that could have gone awry in any number of ways Butler plays even the highest pitched notes like a concerto perfectly capturing the king’s bravado bombast cunning compassion and passion each step of the way. Headey is his ideal match imbuing the queen with more steel and nobility in a handful of scenes than most actresses can summon to carry entire films. Fans of Lost and Brazilian cinema will be hard-pressed to even recognize Santoro whose earnest pretty handsomeness is radically transformed into Xerxes’ exotic borderline freakish form personifying a terrifying yet seductive force of corruption and evil that spreads like a cancer across the earth. And don’t forget to add in the most impressive array of rock-hard abs on cinematic display since well ever (think Brad Pitt in Troy times 300). Even bolstered by canny casting choices and their washboard stomachs helmer Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) is the true undisputable star of 300 establishing himself firmly as a director whose work demands to be watched. With a kinetic sensibility that’s akin to Quentin Tarantino and John Woo and using CGI technology to its utmost effects both subtle and dynamic Snyder creates a compelling fully formed world that the audience is eager to explore. Snyder doesn’t literally match Miller’s signature artwork as meticulously as director Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City. Instead Snyder captures Miller’s essence be it raw brutality majestic size and scope the exotic and otherworldly carnal physicality or hideous deformity--even seemingly antiquated and potentially off-putting techniques like the repeated use of slow-motion are put to fresh effect making every blow and cut seem crucial. Yet even in the visual glorification of some of the most bloody and violent conflicts ever put to film Snyder infuses the tale—which ultimately is one big glorious testosterone-soaked fight sequence—with the sense of honor and sacrifice which characterizes the most noble of war efforts. Yes war can be hell but this is a case where some like it hot.
August 14, 2001 11:23am EST
Ewan McGregor may enjoy working in Hollywood, but he would never live there. McGregor said he loathes the Los Angeles studio system because it dehumanizes actors by putting them on A, B and C lists according to how much money they can make for a studio, he told Britain's The Mail on Sunday's You Magazine. Apparently unaware that studios see actors as being bankable commodities, the actor told the magazine: "We're not a bunch of letters to make you money--we're people." McGregor also denied rumors that he was romantically involved with his Moulin Rouge costar Nicole Kidman.
Comic Judy Gold gave birth Thursday to a 7-pound, 8-ounce boy, The Associated Press reports. Gold, who hosts HBO's At the Multiplex With Judy Gold, and baby Benjamin Dov Callahan-Gold are doing fine.
More than 500 friends and coworkers attended a memorial Monday to Jack Lemmon at the Paramount Studios theater, AP reports. In attendance were actors Kevin Spacey, Hank Azaria, Tom Hanks and comedy writer Larry Gelbart. Lemmon died June 27 of cancer at the age of 76.
The 15th annual Hispanic Heritage Awards will honor director-writer Gregory Nava, artist and educator Judith Baca, Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist Liz Balmaseda, tennis player Joe Fernandez and journalist talk-show host Cristina Saralegui, AP reports. The awards, to be held Aug. 25, will be broadcast Sept. 22 on NBC, with Gloria Estefan among the featured performers.
A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that Barbie, the sexy plastic siren, could be used in some controversial artistic photographs, Reuters reports. Judge Ronald Lew ruled Monday that artist Tom Forsythe could use Barbie dolls in a series of limited edition photographs that depicts them in various sexually explicit poses. Forsythe said that his photos attempt to skewer the stereotyping of women and commodification of female bodies.
An anonymous collector bought a pizza-stained piece of paper signed by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison for $24,000 at a Melbourne auction on Monday, AP reports. The paper was signed in during the Beatles 1964 Australian tour. Drummer Ringo Starr was not on the tour because of a bout with laryngitis.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have canceled a concert in Tel Aviv because of sudden outbursts of suicide bombings in Israel. According to Reuters, some 20,000 tickets had already been sold for the concert, to be held at the end of August. Fans will be reimbursed for the tickets. Israeli tourism has dropped 50 percent since the bloodshed began, forcing the shut down of hotels and airlines to cut back on flights.
CNN is in talks with Rush Limbaugh about hosting a show, Variey reports. The network declined to comment on the talks but said it is always looking for a diversity of on-air voices. In the past, Limbaugh dubbed the network the "Clinton News Network". CNN is apparently attempting to woo big-name personalities in a bid to increase ratings and come across as less liberal to attract more conservative viewers. Limbaugh's TV show Rush Limbaugh, The Television Show failed to take off in 1992.
The new two-hour TV movie The Brady Bunch in Washington has papa Brady as president of the United States with wife Carol as vice president, Army Archerd reported in Variety. The movie apparently pokes fun at the White House, past and present. The film is executive produced by Sherwood Schwartz, with his son Lloyd producing and writing with Sherwood's daughter Hope Juber. Filming will take place in Toronto using a Canadian crew and actors.
Even though Rush Hour 2 has grossed an estimated $131.9 million at the domestic box office so far, industry insiders are wondering whether the movie could have made more had Regal Cinemas not passed on the movie. According to The Hollywood Reporter, New Line Cinemas and Regal Cinema were involved in a dispute over film rental negotiations. Regal initially refused to screen the film as long as New Line sought firm-term rental negotiations. Regal claims that New Line broke off negotiations at the 11th hour and insists that missing Rush Hour 2 would not harm the company financially. The Regal Cinema chain has 4,067 screens.
A new series of Absolutely Fabulous will debut on the BBC's fall TV schedule, the BBC News reports. The British comedy, which stars Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley and Julia Sawalha, centers on a neurotic fashion publicist and her best friend, an outrageous fashion editor. The series also airs on the Comedy Central network.