Thursday, July 19, 2012

300 (2006)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham
Rated: R
Genre: Action, History, War
Runtime: 117 minutes
Other Versions: Meet the Spartans (2008)

The ancient world is on the brink of war.  Leonidas, king of Sparta has been confronted with a difficult decision, when a Persian messenger brings news that his "god-king" Xerxes' wishes to rule over Sparta, and requires Leonidas's subordination to him.  But, the Spartans are a strong and proud race; proud of their strengths and most importantly, their freedom.  Leonidas is not ready to just give all that up.  However, both the Spartan council and oracle warn Leonidas that war would be certain death; there is no way the tiny Hellenistic city-state could hope to take on the towering Persian empire.  However, Leonidas has courage and a plan which could easily even the odds, and turn the war in Sparta's favor.  So, gathering together an army of 300 Spartans, he sets off to for freedom, bravery, and honor, no matter what comes their way.

I've been wanting to see this film for a while now.  I'm both a history buff and a Classical Studies minor (focus on Greco-Roman history and literature), so I've had quite a bit of interest in the ancient world.  After learning about the Battle of Thermopylae in my Greek History class, I've had a renewed interest in the topic--and the film.  Now, of course, the film was terribly inaccurate, but after the first ten minutes or so, that didn't really matter anymore.  I was so swept up in the battles, fraternity, and just general fist pumping "yes!" moments, that slight inaccuracies didn't really matter anymore.

I particularly loved the message this movie carried.  It reminds us that what is right is worth fighting for, and that no man should be a slave to another.  Even when all hope is gone, one needs to keep fighting.  For the Spartans, the powerful realization was that it would be better to die as a free man fighting to protect those freedoms than it was to live as a coward, a subordinate, and a slave.

Not only is this a great story with a powerful message, but the CGI for this film was simply amazing. From vast armies to the grotesque "├╝ber immortals" of the Persian army, the effects were used perfectly in order to really enhance the atmosphere.  Although there is always that understanding that CGI characters are only just special effects, there comes a point in this film where you just find yourself so drawn into the plot that you don't even think about it--just accept it.

Gerard Butler was wonderful as Leonidas.  He was ripped, he was cocky and confident--and yet still sensitive and emotional.  He really brought the character to life.  He made him three-dimensional and almost real.  Leonidas was an amazing character.  Instead of just making him into a muscle-bound action hero or a cocky bastard, we are given a man who has concerns and fears that genuinely affect him, but is still able to overcome them.  That's a real hero.

All in all, this is a great movie which carries a powerful message.  I recommend this to anyone with an interest in ancient history, as well as those who appreciate a good action film with a powerful, hopeful message.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tommy Boy (1995)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Peter Segal
Starring: Chris Farley, David Spade, Brian Dennehy
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Comedy
Runtime: 97 minutes

Things are finally starting to look up for Tommy (Farley).  After seven years, he's finally graduated from college, plus his father (Dennehy) has given him a job in the family car parts manufacturing company, and to top it all off, his father's getting remarried--and that means that Tommy gets the brother he's always wanted!  Needless to say, life is good.  Well, that is, until Tommy's dad dies at his own wedding reception, and Tommy inherits the failing company.  Things couldn't possibly get worse.  And then, Tommy has an idea.  Offering up his shares of the company to the bank as collateral, he decides to raise the money to save the company himself, by making sales calls personally.  But, with his limited experience in the business, he can't do it alone, so he ropes his father's stuckup accountant Richard (Spade) to come with him.  The unlikely duo must do whatever possible to earn enough money to save the company.  But will they be able to do it in time?

Now, I'm not saying that this is the greatest movie ever, but it was terribly funny, and that certainly was enough for me.  I've seen Chris Farley before in other things, mostly SNL skits involving the character Matt Foley, the motivational speaker.  He's a master of physical comedy, as well as an actor who can just get so worked up, that you can't stop laughing, and you have no idea what he is going to do next.  There is something hilarious in watching him crash into doors, through tables, etc.  Or of course, my brother's favorite scene involves Farley's character Tommy setting a toy car in his eagerness to demonstrate how his company's brakes work in comparison to the competition's.

David Spade was wonderful.  I have never been a David Spade fan; in fact, I've never really liked him.  But, this film changed that.  The contrast of big, boisterous Farley and short, serious, mousy Spade was wonderful.  It was so funny watching the sorts of conflicts they got into.  My personal favorites involve an argument over whether or not to eat in the car, and another incident where Tommy teases Richard about watching a woman skinny dipping.

All in all, I would highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a good laugh (I personally laughed until I cried), or who appreciates physical comedy (people crashing into walls, glass doors, through tables, etc.), or for anyone who is a fan of Chris Farely or David Spade.  All in all, it's just a funny movie and I highly recommend it!

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