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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Before fending for their lives throughout every threatening absurdity that ensues on Game of Thrones, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, and Rory McCann had to vie for their respective roles as Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, and The Hound on Game of Thrones.
Prior to their emergence as their characters on the HBO hit show, the three future co-stars had to show casting directors Nina Gold and Robert Sterne their ability to deliver dramatics! Although the actors' audition tapes have been around for quite some time, people, including us here at Hollywood.com, are just stumbling across them now. And are they ever impressive!
Prior to undergoing abuse at the hand of a**hole King Joffrey, a petite Sophie Turner showed up to her audition for stuck-up Sansa with a slightly messy head of strawberry blonde hair. And if you love Arya's badass eagerness on the show, you're going to get a kick out of watching all the sass Maisie Williams delivers while trying to snag her future role. And yeah, she's pretty effing adorable too! Despite their young ages, these Stark sisters sure know how to impress a casting director… and us GOT fans too for that matter!
Before the GOT make-up crew painted his ugly wound on his face, a very-bearded Rory McCann tried out for his role as Sandor Clegane, better known as The Hound. After hearing his husky, yet utterly intimidating vocals and watching his mesmerizing charisma, we too would totally hand over the part of Arya's kidnapper to Rory!
Watching these stars' auditions is a great distraction as we restlessly await the next series of Game of Thrones.
Follow Cori on Twitter @gimmegimmeCOR Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter @Hollywood_com
More:This Rihanna-'Game of Thrones' Mashup is Life Changing'Game of Thrones' Superfans Are Naming Their Children KhalessiHodor is a DJ? 'Game of Thrones' Actor Kristian Nairn Spins Discs in Ireland
From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
We've been so distracted by the recent carnage on Game of Thrones that it somehow slipped under the radar that Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor, is a legendary Irish DJ.
Sorry we're late to the game on this one, folks, (ComicBookMovie.com interviewed him back in 2011) but we're playing now — and we can't believe it. When Nairn isn't sticking by Bran Stark's side on the popular HBO series, he's spinning tracks and throwing down beats in nightclubs all over Ireland.
According to ComicBookMovie.com, the actor's interest in music first sparked when he was three years old and he started playing piano and the guitar. He later started producing records and has since worked the club scene as a DJ for thirteen years. His music-making even helped land him the role of Hodor on Game of Thrones. In the interview, Nairn discloses that through his performance art, he met his ex-agent, who got him an audition for Simon Pegg's Hot Fuzz. He didn't end up landing a role, but Hot Fuzz casting directors Nina Gold and Robert Sterne went on to cast Game of Thrones. And the rest, as they say, is history.As much as we'd get a kick out of watching Hodor deejay a Stark House party, I highly doubt that's going to happen under a**hole King Joffrey's vindictive rule.
Follow Cori on Twitter @gimmegimmeCORFollow Hollywood.com on Twitter @Hollywood_com
More: Arya Stark Is a Vine ChampStar Richard Maden Is Sad... Now Why Could That Be? Nerds Are Naming Their Babies Arya After 'Game of Thrones'
From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)Which Game of Thrones Actor Looks Least Like His Character? (Vulture)
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.