The 3D sequel to hit action film 300 has battled its way to the top of the North American box office chart, debuting at number one with $45.1 million (£28.19 million). 300: Rise of an Empire, based on the as-yet-unreleased Frank Miller graphic novel Xerxes, stars Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro and Eva Green in a fictionised re-telling of the Battle of Salamis between the Ancient Greeks and Persians.
Its success was more than enough to crush the closest competition, animated movie Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which opened at two with $32.5 million (£20.3 million).
Liam Neeson's Non-Stop tumbled to three, while The Lego Movie and religious epic Son of God rounded out the new top five.
Meanwhile, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel made box office history after earning $800,000 (£500,000) from its limited four-theatre release across New York and Los Angeles, averaging $200,000 (£125,000) per venue. The figure means the comedy drama scored the highest average gross of all time for a specialty title in North America.
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
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
Singer Kelis insists she is "over" her 2009 divorce from rapper Nas, despite the fact he sparked speculation in recent years about his feelings for his ex-wife after featuring her wedding dress on the cover of his 2012 album. The Milkshake hitmaker wed Nas in 2005, only to split four years later following rumours of his infidelity.
And much to her surprise, the rapper brought their relationship to the forefront again when he posed with the green wedding dress she wore down the aisle for his 2009 record Life Is Good, suggesting he is still harbouring feelings for his ex.
As for Kelis, she insists she has already moved on, telling The Guardian, "I've been divorced for almost five years; it's over, I'm over it."
She adds, "But what I would say is that last year I was made more aware of it because my ex-husband decided to talk about stuff that I hadn't shared with the world. He slipped my wedding dress on to his album cover, so now I have to talk about it! I had no idea it was happening, I was like, 'What the...?' But it didn't affect my life. I'm not living that life now. I'm super-content and at peace."
British rapper Professor Green's clothing range with sportswear giant Puma has come to an end, according to U.K. reports. The I Need You Tonight hitmaker signed a deal to help design jumpers, T-shirts and accessories for the brand in 2012 and two collections were sold in stores across the U.K.
However, Puma bosses have now announced the deal on the Honey Badger range has ended.
A Puma spokesperson tells Britain's Daily Mirror, "I can confirm that Puma and Professor Green haven't extended the agreement to produce a new collection in 2014."
Rapper Rick Ross has come up with the greatest extravagance after hiring a Los Angeles marijuana dispensary assistant to fly out to Florida once a month to roll his joints. The high-living hip-hop heavyweight reveals he fell for his new assistant's talents during a trip to California and now he's about to make her the richest blunt-roller in America.
Ross tells Rolling Stone, "She's got pretty, green eyes. I'm gonna fly her in once a month for a three-day period to roll all of my weed, 'cause I ain't smoking with n**gas no more. I need a chick rolling my s**t."
Guitar greats including SLASH, Brian May, Peter Green, and Jeff Beck have been photographed with their most beloved instrument for a new charity exhibition. The rockers joined other stars including Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera, MC5 rocker Wayne Kramer, and the Stone Roses' axeman John Squire for the display, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.
They all posed for snapper Scarlet Page while clutching their most treasured guitar, and the images will be exhibited at London's Royal Albert Hall during the Teenage Cancer Trust gigs later this month (Mar14).
Page confesses one of the hardest stars to convince to take part was Fleetwood Mac's Green, telling Mojo magazine, "I felt truly honoured that he said yes and, aware that photography is not one of his favourite things, I tried to keep it as quick and painless as possible."
Alongside Hollywood veterans Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, and Tony Goldwyn and two young leads (Shailene Woodley, Theo James) who have already built up quite the impressive C.V., Divergent's ensemble cast also includes several virtual unknowns. Here's a brief guide to their careers so far.Ansel Elgort (Caleb)
The son of fashion photographer Arthur Elgort, 19-year-old Elgort's career began on stage in Matt Charman's off-Broadway drama Regrets. After making his big screen debut as Chloe Moretz's prom date in last year's Carrie remake, the New Yorker landed the role of Tris' inquisitive brother Caleb Prior. Elgort will then make the switch from playing Woodley's sibling to her love interest when they both star in the adaptation of John Green's best-selling novel, The Fault In Our Stars, while he's also set to appear in Jason Reitman's star-studded comedy Men, Women and Children.
Amy C. Newbold (Molly)
Amy C. Newbold is no stranger to the Hollywood blockbuster, having worked as a casting assistant on Superman reboot Man Of Steel as well as on the likes of Contagion and Raising Hope. But as Tris' factionless enemy Molly Atwood, Divergent will see her move from behind to in front of the camera for her first major acting role, with bit parts in Boss and Chicago Fire the only other credits to her name.
Ben Lamb (Edward)
Cast as skilled fighter Edward, Ben Lamb made the move to post-apocalyptic Chicago from medieval England after playing The White Queen's brother Anthony in the BBC's hit historical drama. The 25-year-old, who'd previously studied at both RADA and Oxford University, cut his teeth appearing in various Shakespeare productions and made his onscreen debut as a posh toff in BBC legal drama Silks in 2012.
Christian Madsen (Al)
One of the more experienced "unknowns" in the cast, Christian Madsen has appeared alongside his father Michael in deliverance tale Refuge from the Storm and off-kilter thriller The Brazen Bull and his auntie Virginia in comedy Jake Squared, while he also had a minor role in Justin Timberlake vehicle In Time. Cast as kind-hearted Al, he'll next be seen as Bryan, a young man who reunites with his estranged father after 15 years in the indie drama Prism.
Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Will)
Following his older brother Henry's role in Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire, the Lloyd-Hughes name will appear in the credits of another major franchise when 25-year-old Ben plays Tris' brainy ally Will. He first appeared on screen as a teenager in BBC drama Love Soup back in 2005 and has since cropped up in a string of hit British TV shows including Skins, The Hour and Young James Herriot. While his filmography includes teen horror Tormented and the 2012 remake of Great Expectations.
Divergent hits theaters March 21. You can check showtimes and purchase advanced tickets here.
British rockers Alt-J have decided to continue as a three-piece and not replace recently-departed bassist Gwil Sainsbury. The musician stepped down from the 2012 Mercury Prize winners in January (14), citing personal reasons for his exit, and after more than a month as a trio, remaining members Joe Newman, Thom Green and Gus Unger-Hamilton have chosen to keep the line-up as is.
The band is currently working on the follow up to 2012's An Awesome Wave and keyboardist Unger-Hamilton admits he and his bandmates have become comfortable as a trio.
He tells NME.com, "It's possible we'll have somebody to play with us on tour. But, as for the band, it'll just be us three."
Music stars including Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson, singer Lianne La Havas, and rapper Plan B have backed a campaign to save a historic London gig venue from closure. The George Tavern in Stepney, east London is under threat after developers were given the green light to turn a nearby building into luxury apartments, and the pub's owners fear complaints about noise from gigs will force them to close the venue.
The pub's landlady Pauline Forster launched a petition in a bid to save the pub, and she has won the support of numerous music stars, including Wilson and La Havas, as well as Plan B, who featured the venue in his movie Ill Manors.
Wilson, who attended a gig at the George Tavern on Sunday night (02Mar14) in support of contestants from his TV talent show The Voice, says of the battle to save the pub, "Live music is something this country should be very proud of. It does not start on the television screen, it starts on a sticky carpet in front of a dusty curtain."
Stars from other areas of the entertainment industry have also backed the fight, including acting veteran Sir Ian McKellen and model Georgia May Jagger, who has been pictured sporting a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan 'Save The George Tavern'.
The petition had garnered more than 2,000 signatures on Monday (03Mar14).