Saturday, March 29, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire is a 2014 film, directed by Noam Murro and written by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, on the Athenian general, Themistocles, during the Battle of Marathon, Thermopylae and Salamis. It is a follow up to the  2007 fillm 300, taking place before, during and after the events of the first film.

Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles
Rodrigo Santoro as King Xerxes

Queen Gorgo tells her men about the Battle of Marathon where King Darius I of Persia was killed by General Themistocles of Athens. After witnessing his father's death, Xerxes, becomes a recluse, stricken with fear against the Greeks, haunted by the dying words of his father. "Only the gods could defeat the Greeks". Darius' naval commander, Artemisia, tells him that Darius' last words were in fact a challenge and sends Xerxes on a journey through the desert to become a "god". Finding a cave and then bathing in its otherworldly liquid, Xerxes emerging as the "God-King". He returns to Persia and declares war on Greece.
Themistocles meets with the council and convinces them to provide him with a fleet to engage the Persians at sea. He then travels to Sparta to ask for help, but is informed that King Leonidas is consulting the Oracle, and Queen Gorgo is reluctant to side with Athens. Themistocles learns that Artemisia was born Greek, but defected to Persia as her family was murdered by Greek hoplites and she was taken as a sex slave to the Greeks, who left her for dead in the streets. She was rescued and adopted by the Persians. Her lust for vengeance gained the attention of King Darius and he made her a naval commander after she killed many of his enemies.
Themistocles leads his men to the Aegean Sea. They ram their ships into the Persian ships and charge them, slaughtering several soldiers before retreating. The following day, the blood bath continues. Impressed with Themistocles' skills, Artemisia has him brought onto her ship where she tries to convince him to join the Persians as her second-in-command. They then proceed to have sex. He refuses which ends their sexual encounter. Artemisia then swears revenge.
The Persians spill tar into the sea and send suicide bombers to board the Greek ships with their flame bombs.Themistocles manages to kill one of the soldiers, who falls into the tar carrying a torch, causing ships from both sides to explode. Themistocles is thrown into the sea by the explosion and nearly drowns as a result. Luckily,  he is rescued by Calisto but not before seeing his friend, Scyllas, succumbs to his wounds. Believing Themistocles to be dead, Artemisia and her forces withdraw.
Themistocles learns that the 300 have been killed by Xerxes and returns to Athens to confront Ephialtes, the deformed Spartan traitor. Epialtes reveals that Xerxes plans to attack Athens and, being regretful of his actions, welcomes death. But Themistocles spares him instead. He tells the traitor to warn Xerxes that the Greek forces are gathering at Salamis. He then visits Gorgo, who is in mourning Leonidas, to once again ask for her help, but she is too overcome with grief to be of any help to him. Before leaving, Themistocles returns Leonidas' sword, which he took from Ephialtes and urges Gorgo to avenge Leonidas.
In Athens, Xerxes' army is laying waste when Ephialtes arrives to deliver Themistocles' message. Artemisia is shocked to hear that Themistocles is still alive and leaves to ready her troops for battle. The Greek ships crash into the Persians ships, and the two armies battle, this is to be the decisive Battle of Salamis. Themistocles and Artemisia fight, and Themistocles overpowers her.
Gorgo has been narrating the tale to her Spartan army the entire time, now leads them to assist in the battle alongside other allied Greeks. Themistocles urges Artemisia to surrender, but she tries to kill him and is stabbed through the stomach as a result. With her dying breath, she sees Xerxes turning his back on her as he retreats. Themistocles and Gorgo silently acknowledge one another's alliance and the two them charge at the opposing Persians with the rest of the Spartans behind them.
I give this movie 3/5. It is the bloodiest, the most historically inaccurate, the movie with the greatest slightly racist undertones that I will probably watch this year....and yet, it wasn't half bad. I found it quite enjoyable, in fact. While it's not as good as the first 300 film, it wasn't a terrible sequel. In my opinion, Sullivan Stapleton falls short of the strong leader that Gerard Butler was in the original but he did fine as this movie's protagonist. The women definitely ran the show in this movie. Lena Headey made a great Queen Gorgo and was especially glad to see her in this movie...and actually wield a sword. But the person who stole the show was Eva Green as Artemisia. She was a baddy in this movie and she did it well. She was absolutely perfect in the role. Nearly ever review that I have watched regarding this film (JeremyJahns, Chris Stuckmann and Schmoesknow) said that she was the best part of the movie and I would have to agree. 
If you want a fun movie on a Saturday night, that you can turn mind off to, this is it! 

Reign (Episode 16)

Reign is a 2013-2014 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s.

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II of France
Anna Popplewell as Lola
Caitlin Stasey as Kenna
Celina Sinden as Greer

Henry continues to act erratically, for example, he poured candle wax into a nobleman's ear for not doing expressly what the King asked, and Catherine continues to worry. The palace is abuzz with the coming "Queen of the Bean Day", an event where the female servants search for a bean in a cake and whoever should be so lucky as to find it becomes Queen for the day. Greer introduces to Mary her new fiance, Lord Julien, and Leith begins to have some doubts as to whether or not he wants to go to Spain and give up Greer.

A servant girl named Penelope finds the bean and is proclaimed by Catherine to be Queen of the Bean. Basch returns from exile in order to get some help for Rowan. He immediately placed under arrest by Henry for killing Francis's guard but Mary insists that her husband did not order them to murder him. Catherine walks Penelope through her experience as Queen of the Bean, even going so far as to provide the girl with an aphrodisiac. Leith and Greer steal a quick kiss but they are caught by Lord Julien who promptly breaks off their engagement.

Francis, Mary and Basch meet with Olivier to get to the heart of this monster mystery. Olivier insists that the monster is real but Nostradamus proves that the monster is actually just a man. Mary begins to notice that Henry is unwell after he asks her to introduce Penelope to sexual intercourse but Penelope doesn't need Mary as she is able to appease King Henry's bondage tendencies. Greer  and Mary encourage Lola to consider Julien as a potential suitor. While following a lead on Rowan's disappearance, Francis falls into the ice and it's up to the brother he's been so contentious with lately to save him.

Feeling down on her luck, Greer surprised that Lord Castleroy is still in pursuit of her. He admits that he is not the man of her dreams but still loves her and will provide for her. Greer accepts his proposal. The brothers reconcile and learn that it was in fact, Henry, who ordered the execution of his illegitimate son. Olivier asks Nostradamus to dance but he refuses. He later explains to her that the last person he danced with was his wife who had since died from the plague. Nostradamus is plagued with guilt over being unable to save them but Olivier reminds him that he has saved her and they kiss. Leith is sent off which causes Greer much heartache. Penelope undermines Catherine by telling Henry of the vial. It turns out that Henry had the contents of the vial poured into Catherine's drink and the actual Queen faints upon learning that she is drugged. Henry forces Kenna and Basch into a sword wedding, proclaiming Basch to be Master of Horse and Hunt. Basch admits to Mary that his feelings for her remain unchanged and he lied before when he said they did.

I give this episode a 3.5/5. Other than the ridiculously named "Queen of the Bean" event and the stereotypical depiction of bondage, this episode was one of the best of the series so far. King Henry II's madness is pretty terrifying to watch, especially seeing Kenna reduced to tears during the wedding ceremony. The tension reached by this episode was pretty high with Francis nearly dying in a frozen lake. It had a nice way of tying in all the girls to this episode which is something I criticized about show early on. I thought this episode really showed the depths to which these people had fallen and, perhaps its the sadistic side of me, I thought the show did a better job at it than its happier episodes.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Reign (Episode 15)

Reign is a 2013-2014 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. The fifteenth episode garnered an audience of 1.61 million people.

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II of France
Anna Popplewell as Lola
Caitlin Stasey as Kenna
Celina Sinden as Greer

At the request of King Henry, Kenna engages in a threesome with a prostitute. When she awakes after their night together, she is horrified to find the prostitute dead in their bed, with finger marks on her throat. Catherine covers up the incident but starts becoming concerned that this may become a regular thing, considering what happened to his last lover. She believes him to be ill but Henry outright denies it.

Greer accepts the suit of Lord Castleroy although she continues to see Leith, a castle servant. Greer has Castleroy arrange an apprenticeship for Leith in Spain. She later rejects Castleroy as her family has already chosen a husband for her. At the end of the episode, Greer is seen at the castle opening waiting for the arrival of her new husband.

Mary fears that Lola may try to usurp her position just as Diane did to Catherine all those years before. She pushes for Lola to accept the proposal of the first suitor available despite the fact that she knows that he is a homosexual. She later changes her mind and tells Lola to make her own choice even if it means waiting.

Olivia tells Nostradamus that she was taken to a creature known as "the darkness" where she was fed on daily until she escaped. The pagan takes Rowan to be their next sacrifice after she opens her eyes at the call of Basch in front of the pagans. It is up to Basch and her brother, Carrick, to go and rescue her.

I give this episode 1.5/5. The sexual escapades of Henry II make this episode otherwise it was boring, boring, boring. Greer is probably the weakest of all the characters and her subplot is excessively dull. Lola and Mary's conflict is so underplayed by the Kane and Popplewell that I really don't get a sense that there is any tension at all. What I don't understand is why they tied up Basch? The pagans chose THEIR family for the sacrifice but Basch isn't part of their family so he could creep all he wanted and technically he shouldn't get it trouble.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Reign (Episode 13 & 14)

Reign is a 2013-2014 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. On February 13, 2014, the show was renewed for a second season.

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II of France
Anna Popplewell as Lola

Mary's Mother, Marie de Guise, comes to France and advises Mary not to marry Basch. This is supported by Nostradamus who has stopped having visions of Francis's death after Clarissa has died. He comes to the conclusion that because the prophecy only referred to Catherine's first child, in this case being Clarissa from an adulterous affair, then Francis will not die if he marries Mary. When Francis returns to Court, Catherine advises her son to pursue marry, promising that she will bring them no further harm. Basch and Francis fight over Mary after Basch tries to elope with Mary. The Queen of Scotland must choose who she will marry and in the end, it is Francis who she loves. Catherine is pardoned by Henry in time for their eldest son's impending nuptials. Nostradamus is horrified to discover that Clarissa is still alive while Mary is shocked to discover that it was her mother who faked the news about England's Queen in order to push her to marry Francis. Nostradamus has another vision in which both Mary and Francis are happy but Francis dies only a year into the marriage. Henry forces Basch to watch Mary and Francis consummate their marriage before he is escorted out of the castle. Believing that the guards were ordered to kill them, Basch kills them first and runs off into the forest.

Mary and Francis return after a two month honeymoon in time for the arrival of Archduke Ferdinand of Bohemia and his sister. Henry seduces the Archduke's sister and while they have sex, she accidentally falls out of a window to her ill timed death. Henry calls on Catherine to help him dispose of the body and come up with a good excuse for her apparent death and in the process, during which he comes to realize why he and Catherine made a good match in the first place. Basch is hunting in the woods when he meets a Huntress named Rowan and her brother. They find Olivia, who is so traumatized by what has happened to her that she cuts herself out of fear. Basch takes her to Nostradamus and while in some sort of daze, she stabs a priest that came to comfort her.  Henry tries to pass Kenna off to the Archduke but he leaves after hearing of his sister's untimely death. Mary discovers that Lola is pregnant with Francis's child and stops her from having a potentially life threatening abortion. 

I give the episode 13 1.5/5 and episode 14 2.5/5. I don't have much to say about last week's episode because it was so boring (which may explain why I didn't review it last week). It's strange that for all the bad things I say about this show, I've never called it boring before. Episode 14 was definitely much better and would have been considered fresh in my opinion had it not been for the fact that it wasn't so god damn ridiculous. He kills her by accidentally dropping her out the window when they have sex...and then he nearly does it again with Kenna! WHAT A WAY TO GO! The Kenna x Ferdinand subplot was okay but one thing that bothered me was that even though they hammed it up that Ferdinand was very religious, they did say that he was married before so I don't get why he was blushing like a virgin the entire episode through when Kenna was seducing him.