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
S11E3: In a special post-NFL-Playoffs episode of American Idol the judges take the show to San Diego and what San Diego-themed episode would be complete without copious references to Top Gun? We open with the theme to the classic movie and continue with the soundtrack of “Highway to The Danger Zone” as the auditions commence on the U.S.S. Midway, a classic Navy ship that sits on the San Diego Bay as a floating museum. It’s also the place where my little brother went to prom, so excuse me if I get a little protective over my hometown in this recap. Some of these folks give Southern California natives a bad name.
And while I’m finding reasons to be protective of my hometown, the episode didn’t give us too many embarrassing moments. Most of the contestants they showed were decent singers – could they be making good on that positivity promise this year? In the end, 53 people got golden tickets; here are the folks they gave some decent screen time:
“I think your voice lacks the fire that your getup does.” –Randy
And this girl is one of those folks doing the bad name-giving. Jennifer Diley shows up in a bikini top and miniscule booty shorts and in an attempt to show what a manly man he is, Ryan makes her walk up the stairs twice. HAR HAR. Then, she has the audacity to admit she’s really just trying to please the male judges, but at least she knows where her strengths lie. She sings “With You” by Jessica Simpson and she’s just awful. She insists on trying “Hero” by Mariah Carey as well, but Randy says if it’s bad she has to leave immediately, with no commentary from the judges. She’s quickly denied with yet another Top Gun reference: “Take My Breath Away.”
“Where’ve you been all this time?” –Randy
This girl started the streak of good singers. Robles is an insurance account manager, DJ and mother and it seems that her adorable daughter will have a chance to cheer her mommy on some more. Robles sang the song no one should ever try on Idol: “I Will Always Love You.” But defying all past Idol experience, she carries the song’s classic high note beautifully – the spot where even good singers on Idol usually blow it. Clearly, she’s going to Hollywood.
“It’s like the golden ticket to the Charlie – to the, the factory. What is it called?” –Jayrah
This guy is a bit of a joke. Unfortunately, he can sing so he’ll be around for a bit longer. Gibson is a songwriter; he even wrote a song for Jennifer about her moneymaker. Classy.His real song is “Just Friends” and it’s actually kind of great. Randy loves it because they haven’t had a real R&B style singer in a while. Jennifer’s only hesitation is that he sang more of a rhythmic song and not a melodic one, and I have to agree. Even so, he gets a ticket to Hollywood, where he’ll undoubtedly make more references to movies he can’t seem to remember.
“...becoming America’s Next Top Model.” –Aubree Dieckmeyer
This receptionist from San Clemente, like the singer before her, is a bit of a ditz. California girl stereotype: check. She continues by saying that her chosen song, “Feeling Good” is “by Michael Bublè.” People really need to start at least googling their songs before they audition. Anyway, she’s a good singer, but it’s a bit sticky when she switches between falcetto and vibrato. Her upper range is thin, but it’s enough to get her a ticket to Hollywood.
“You’re just crazy enough to make it” –Randy
This girl went on the Ellen DeGeneres show and walked away with the courage to try out for Idol, and it’s a good thing too, because she has a unique, fantastic voice. First, she sing/raps “Look at Me Now” which is funny and all, but Randy wants to hear a real song, because this is like, a singing competition or something. She sings a Corrine Bailey Rae song and we hear that she’s actually got the voice of a jazz singer. The likable nutjob gets a ticket to Hollywood and I foresee many more goofy montages in our future.
“I can’t wait to hear everyone sing the same Adele song for six f**king hours.” –Steven
“You sound nothing like you look.” –Randy
Next, we have a UC Berkley frat boy. I thought he was lying and paying his buddies to say he’s a ladies’ man just because he serenades pretty girls because he looks like a bit of a nerd. But then he actually sang. He dedicates “Angel of Mine” by Monica to Jennifer Lopez and he sounds like an R&B singer. Steven says it’s the “Best male voice we’ve heard yet” which is really a bit of an overstatement, but he’s certainly a surprise. Of course, if he’s going to sing like that, he’s going to need to ditch the Jason Mraz look. He gets a ticket to Hollywood.
“My dad is Jim Carrey.” –Jane Carrey
This girl is trying everything she can to not live in her father’s shadow. She doesn’t live off his money, working as a waitress and mother, because she wants to achieve success on her own. This is the same reason she’s auditioning for Idol instead of asking her dad to use his connections to get her in at a label. Jennifer is freaking out because she remembers seeing Jane as a two-year-old when she was a fly girl on In Living Color with Jim Carrey. But once we get past the whole “I feel old” schtick, Jane sings “Something to Talk About” and she’s alright, but as Jennifer points out, she needs to work on her stage presence and keep her eyes open. I’m not sure she would have made it if her dad wasn’t Jim Carrey, but we’ll see what else she can do during Hollywood week. There was just no way the producers were going to pass up on the opportunity to have her call her dad on speaker phone when she got the good news. And I took the bait: it was adorable.
“My name’s Jason, but most people call me Wolf.” –Wolf
Jason “Wolf” Hamlin
Let me just start with the fact that I absolutely love this guy. He works as a mechanic on a golf course and his father was a craftsman who built guitars by hand. His father passed away, but he brings one of his hand-made guitars along with him. I fear, however, that he’ll face a Casey Abrams fate. He sings “Midnight Special” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and he’s good, but he sounds just like John Fogerty. Steven wants to hear something else because so far, he’s good at impressions. They allow him to use his guitar (even though auditions are supposed to be a capella only!) and he blows it out of the water. Why didn’t he just start with that song? He’s soulful, jazzy and instantly one of my favorites. Plus, he’s got a little bit more of a suave, attractive vibe going for him than Casey did. He may just stick around. (I certainly hope so!)
Who was your favorite contestant of the night? Did you think Jim Carrey’s daughter was an Idol worthy singer? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler
Elizabeth Taylor has declined an invite to speak at pal Michael Jackson's memorial on Tuesday because she doesn't want to be a part of the "whoopla" surrounding the event.
The 77-year-old movie star was rumored to be attending the tribute with Barry Manilow, but she reveals she won't be going to the Staples Center event in Los Angeles.
In a message to fans via Twitter, the actress writes, "I've been asked to speak at the Staples Center. I cannot be part of the public whoopla. And I cannot guarantee that I would be coherent to say a word.
"I just don't believe that Michael would want me to share my grief with millions of others. How I feel is between us. Not a public event. I said I wouldn't go to the Staples Center, and I certainly don't want to become a part of it. I love him too much."
Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Lionel Richie and Jackson's former "girlfriend" Brooke Shields have been confirmed as participants in Tuesday's memorial.
The Staples Center tribute will also feature performances and speeches from basketball stars Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson, Motown founder Berry Gordy, Martin Luther King III, John Mayer, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson.
MORE NEWS: Second Michael Jackson Will Surfaces
(c) 2009 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All global rights reserved. No unauthorized copying or re-distributing permitted.
Naturally, the King of Pop's memorial service would attract A-list attendees.
The Jackson family announced today that the following celebrities and family friends will be attending Michael Jackson's public service at the Staples Center tomorrow:
Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, Brooke Shields, John Mayer, Usher, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Smokey Robinson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, Bernice A. King, Shaheen Jafargholi (finalist on Britain's Got Talent), Andrae Crouch Choir, Pastor Lucious Smith, Ron Boyd and Berry Gordy.
This list is a preliminary one and is subject to change, according to the Jacksons' spokespeople.
This guest list aside, no further details of the actual service are being provided.
MORE NEWS: Are You Going to Michael's Memorial?