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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After the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences rocked the television world earlier this week by threatening to move the Primetime Emmy Awards to cable network HBO, it has been decided the Emmys are going to stay with the four major broadcasters after all. Reuters reports the networks--ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox--will together pay $52 million over eight years for the right to take turns airing the show under a "licensing" wheel. HBO offered to pay $50 million over five years, certainly a more lucrative deal, but ultimately ATAS realized the networks could still reach more people overall than HBO. According to Reuters, HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht said in a statement, "While we are certainly disappointed that we didn't get the Emmys, I am glad that the Academy finally got some respect from the big wheels in the big wheel."
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The Robert Blake saga continues. The actor, who has been incarcerated since April 18 on charges of murdering his wife, was officially denied bail by the California Supreme Court Wednesday. They upheld the decision made last month by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash to deny Blake bail based on the evidence supporting the charge against him. Blake's hearing is set for Dec. 11.
Even though they have been his flamboyant trademark for years, Elton John is finally going to throw away the roughly 4,000 pairs of glasses he claims he owns. AP reports the 55-year-old singer plans to get laser surgery to correct his vision problems in February. We'll especially miss the pair with the wipers and flashing lights.
On Thursday the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced Miss and Mr. Golden Globe for the 60th Annual Golden Globe Awards. The honors go to the daughter of actor Andy Garcia, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, and A.J. Lamas, son of actor Lorenzo Lamas and grandson of the late Fernando Alvaro Lamas. Traditionally the honorees, who will assist in the Golden Globes ceremony, are the prodigy of well-known celebrities. The award show airs on NBC Jan. 19.
Variety reports the American Medical Association and the U.N.'s World Health Organization have joined forces with anti-smoking group Smoke Free Movies to ask the film industry to deglamorize smoking by, among other things, giving smoking-filled films an R rating. The MPAA is not expected to comply with the request.
HBO can't Curb their excitement. The cable station has picked up Larry David's comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm for a fourth season. The current season of the offbeat, mostly improvised docu-show, which follows writer/producer/comedian David around Tinseltown, ends Sunday.
The TV game that ran on the now-defunct ABC show Push, Nevada has been solved by Matt Nakamoto from West New York, N.J. He picked up the $1 million prize by watching the seven episodes and solving the on-air puzzle. Too bad the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck ratings disaster got the boot after only four weeks.
Live from Barcelona, Spain, Eminem, Christina Aguilera and James Taylor will perform for the worldwide broadcast of the MTV Europe Music Awards Thursday. Along with Eminem, U2, Kylie Minogue, Pink and Enrique Iglesias are all up for awards. A billion fans are expected to tune in.