Saturday, March 10, 2007

Review: 300

I am not really entertained

Frank Miller’s comic book 300 is a stylised re-imagining of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Greece, where the titular 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), stood their ground to defend their country from an invading Persian army of thousands despite objections from the Spartan councilmen. Meanwhile, Leonidas’ queen, Gorgo (Lena Headey, looking a lot like Connie Nielsen’s Lucilla from Gladiator) has to deal with the underhanded councilman Theron (Dominic West), who may be able to convince the council to revoke their decision and dispatch the rest of the Spartan army to support Leonidas’ position at Thermopylae.

Director Zack Snyder, who famously and miraculously escaped the wrath of Dawn of the Dead fans by actually doing a pretty good job with the remake, created a visual feast of a movie, similar to another Frank Miller creation, Sin City. His movie adheres to the imageries and designs from the book, but improves on them with a crisp, CG sheen over it. The director also carried over the book’s heightened sense of reality, menagerie of freaks and megalomaniacal displays of omnipotence. He was also successful in recreating Frank Miller’s trademark atmosphere of decadent sleaziness with the scenes involving Xerxes’ crib and the Ephors.

So, why is 300 only getting an Average rating from the Big Movie Freak, you say? As a picture book, or even a video game, the visual quality would have been enough to impress. But as a movie, despite all its flourishes 300 was surprisingly boring. Matching the action with equal excess were the lengthy stretches of expositions. Characters would stand in place and deliver long, dreary speeches that often stop the movie cold. They'll go on and on, and again and again with the same damn speech about strength and honour and whatnot like it wasn't clear enough the first time. It may have helped if veterans such as Sir Ian McKellen were reciting the dialogues instead of still-not-quite-there-yet David Wenham (playing narrator Dilios) and co. But really, even then the script would still be in dire need of a trim.

Speaking of David Wenham, who was Faramir in Lord of the Rings, at one point the movie did begin to look like a game of spot-that-movie, with not-so-subtle homages ranging from Rings (Giant elephants! Gollum!) to Zhang Yimou’s Hero (Arrows! Lots of them!). Even Tom Sizemore-lookalike Vincent Regan (the Captain) is playing the same second-in-command lackey role he had in Troy. This movie is more deserving of the title of Déjà Vu than that Denzel Washington picture from last year.

I have to admit: it has its moments. I liked the prologue explaining the harsh, badass Spartan culture, and I enjoyed some of the action sequences, particularly the first wave of attack, the one with the über Immortal and the final showdown. I appreciate the exaggerated, grotesque beauty of the Persian King and his minions. But overall, it’s a second-rate swords-and-sandals epic at best, no thanks to a fundamentally marring and overzealous script. - BMF

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Review: 24 (Season 1, TV)

This is the longest day of my life

In this high concept series, Special Agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) has only twenty-four hours to prevent an assassination attempt on Presidential candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), find his missing daughter, and identify the mole inside CTU.

I advise you to watch 24 during the weekends because once you start you're not gonna stop, like the M&Ms. The story's not really that original, but they do try to move away from clichés at times. What's great about it is how they build the tension, and always deliver a cliffhanger at the end of every hour so that you're always forced to pop the next disc in. By the way, if you weren’t aware (don't worry, no spoilers here), 24 has 24 episodes, each representing an hour in a day of a terrorist incident. Of course, it's not shot in real-time, but it's made as if though you're following Kiefer Sutherland through every minute of his experience during that 24 hours. Err, got that?

Anyway, Kiefer Sutherland is BADASS, man. You do not want to mess with this motherf*****, although he looks like a nice, sweet guy in front of his family. He has no qualms about torturing someone for information, and will commit murder for the sake of national security. He probably has "years of experience in black ops, assassinations and other shady government businesses" written in his top secret CV.

If you liked this one, wait till you see Season 2. - BMF

Will2k's review:
The first episode is very exciting. What makes 24 good is the dialogue, action and adrenaline pumping moments which are perfectly blended together... it's like having Die Hard and Bourne Identity all in one. But I have to admit that the story line is kinda familiar... it's not something that is totally original... seen it in movies like The Hostage, Die Hard With A Vengeance and etc. Have to give credit to them for still being able to deliver some originality. Jack Bauer looks a bit like Bruce Willis with hair except he doesn't get bruises and cuts everywhere. There's a lot of surprise and twist in the movie... quite intelligent and well done. There's a part where Walsh and Jack were shooting terrorist in the building... it was quite a suspense. Reminded me of Bruce Willis in Die Hard. I would not be surprised if this series actually got the inspiration from Bruce's Die Hard movies, because even the bad guy reminds me of Jeremy Irons in Die Hard With A Vengeance. But still no complains... better than watching Smallville. Not to condemn Smallville, but I'm already bored of watching Tom Welling after Season 2 and didn't even feel a bit addicted watching it after that. However, Smallville is still the best Superman TV series if you asked me.

UPDATE 15/09/06: I've continued to watch 24 last night and I'm very, very pleased indeed to find the intensity and excitement of the series which never failed to provide a neverending mystery and puzzle-solving conspiracy, adding up together like a jigsaw puzzle and everything seemed to link up well in the end. What I really admired about this series is the level of detail they put into it, while the characters in 24 really delivered and lived up to my expectations. The person who created 24 definitely knows what people are looking for when it comes to entertainment. Way to go! Coming to the level-of-detail part, for example, there was this scene where David Palmer confronted two hooligans in the car park and uttered a few 'philosophy and morale teachings' to them - one of the brothers swung a baseball bat towards Palmer, but Palmer (standing 6-feet tall with shoulders that would make Hulk Hogan proud) catched it with his bare hands without much trouble. But afterwards, they showed that Palmer got some cuts in his hand due to the impact. This little detail shows that Palmer is still human after all. That's neat!

16/09/06: I continued my journey on 24 again! There's no doubt about it: I am definitely loving this series each time it draws closer to the ending. I particularly admire these characters: Almeida, Alberta Green, George Mason, Robert Ellis, Richard Welsh, Milo, Victor Drazen, Chapelle, Alexis Drazen and of course, David Palmer. Jack Bauer is of course, the hero, but these other characters are also damn cool.

18/09/06: I've finished 24! Spoilers included! However, I've a sad news about 24. Almost the whole season of 24 is very exciting, until it came to the last two episodes. I was expecting something more, but what I got was something that really looked like some last minute work. Here are my comments...

(spoiler begins!)

At the second-last episode of 24, they revealed that Nina Myers was the culprit all along (Jack Bauer actually realised it at the beginning of the season, but she somehow managed to trick him), but the strange thing is that Nina Myers can't be the mole because after I did some flashbacks on what she has done to Jack and his family, it's not likely she's the mole. Furthermore, if she was the mole, I don't think Jack would had a chance at all, so I find this rather ridiculous. But still, it was quite shocking, I can't deny that. I bet a lot of people found this shocking, but I still can't buy it, I tried to put this matter behind me, but I still think it's not possible. It's like they tried to pull off a big surprise for us, but I wasn't satisfied.

In the ending, there is some John Woo execution style by Jack Bauer (woo hoo!) Jack's been pissed cause he thought his daughter was dead (not really!) So he decided he doesn't give a shit no more and blasted all the baddies to middle's earth (he could have done it before, but they were holding his family). Don't expect the baddies to die in a very ugly manner, that's all I can say. Quick, clean death, the American style.

There are two alternate endings for 24. I preferred the one where Teri Bauer died, because at least one of them died after so many miraculous survivals in the series. It's only fair if one of them dies. The second ending is for sissies who doesn't want to see the hero cry. So, both these endings served a purpose.

However, even though the Nina Myer thing might have disappointed me a little, I won't hesitate to watch Season 2. A miracle, isn't it? Probably they made Nina as a mole for some reason, so, I don't doubt that something exciting might be awaiting in the next season of 24.

(spoiler ends!)

Verdict: 24 still managed to deliver, and convinced me to watch on!