King Leonidas slipped into legend at the Battle of… MoreKing Leonidas slipped into legend at the Battle of Thermopyale,martyred with 300 Spartans of Western Civilization and Spartan glory. "Go tell the Spartans,strangers passing by that here,obeident to their laws,we lie." So it was too much to hope that someone with Gerald Butler's charismatic,bellowing swagger would be around for the sequel,"300:Rise of an Empire." Stunningly shot and stupidity written,the sequel to one of the biggest films of 2007 has all of the visual style and arterial spray of the original,but it is less than thrilling. What is really missing here that we can finally point toward a film that would actually be better at the hands of Zack Snyder behind the camera and its direction and style than the amateur Noam Murro,who is known for his comedies(Short People) than his status at directing his first big action film and here it is a big disappointment. "Rise of an Empire" has a more visual stunning but less thrilling epic with bloodier slow motion swordfights,this time at sea. It lacks the heroic proportions and poetry of the original "300" which when on to become one of the top ten highest grossing films of 2007,that took it a whopping $28 million at the boxoffice opening day and raked in an astounding $70 million opening weekend grossing an estimate $450 million worldwide in boxoffice receipts. The original "300" not only established Gerald Butler as an bonafide action star,but the film skyrocketed the careers of Lena Headey, Michael Fassbinder and Rodrigo Santoro. The sequel to "300"is not impressive. The acting here and the action scenes stand out but the screenplay is murky and forgettable. Only actors Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro were the only two returning players from the 2007 original. "Rise of an Empire" brings on newcomer Sullivan Stapleton(Gangster Squad and the British-TV series Strike Back)plays Themistokles the real-life Athenian general who would lead the Greek military against the Persian forces around 480 B.C. Empire begins promisingly with the ferocious battle of Marathon and the introduction of Xerxus(Rodrigo Santoro),the Persian king who would later defeat the 300 Spartans of Snyder's tale. But the scene underscores "Empire's" struggle. While it's beautiful and bloody with graphic violent scenes throughout,"Empire" paints its villains-Xerxes and his lieutenant,beautiful and deadly naval commander Artemisia(Casino Royale's Eva Green)-who is far more interesting than their heroic counterparts. Xerxes watches his father die and swears revenge on Greece;Artemisia is Greek but,watching her family die at the hands of Greek soldiers,switches allegiances. The sea battle scenes were spectacular and from there "Empire" delivers regardless of its running time of 104 minutes,compared to "300's" running time of 117 minutes. Eva Green commands the film from the first time she appears as a ruthless hell bent commander on a vengeful quest to overturn the Greeks in a battle to the death. In my honest opinion,Noam Murro had no business behind the camera directing this digital epic tale of an ancient sea battle. Zack Snyder,who directed the original had a hand in the less than interesting script,shines out as the executive producer here,and it is sorely missed. It's a crying shame that "Rise of an Empire" doesn't hold a candle to the original which made stars out of Gerald Butler, Lena Headey, Michael Fassbinder, David Wenham, and Rodrigo Santoro that became a runaway colossal hit. It's not the action scenes but it's the writing and direction that basically killed this. It's amazing that "Rise of an Empire" when on to gross $45.1 million opening weekend of March 7 thru 9 of 2014. And after this, who knows what may come next since this acts more of a prequel than a sequel. Another "300" sequel perhaps? I'll doubt it after this .
With "Mr. Peabody and Sherman," Dreamworks Animation along with Jay… MoreWith "Mr. Peabody and Sherman," Dreamworks Animation along with Jay Ward Enterprises and Bullwinkle Studios set its WABAC ("Wayback Machine") to the late-1950's and early-1960's and charmingly revives one of the most popular features that was a segment of "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" television series about a dog and his boy. This witty,and kid friendly cartoon captures the splendor and the essence not to mention the tone,and the snappy pace of the animated television shorts(which ran 7 minutes in length)that began with the voice of Bill Scott(who was also the voice of Bullwinkle The Moose)intoning, "Peabody here,my boy Sherman..."
Mr. Peabody is a Harvard graduate, a Rhodes scholar and Nobel Prize-winning pooch who "invented the fist-bump, auto-tune and Zumba," and then adopted Sherman who took the boy under his wing,giving him a head-start on school by taking the kid time-traveling to visit historical places and meet historical people. The Wayback Machine or WABAC allows Sherman and Mr. Peabody to meet everyone from Gandhi to Einstein, Leonardo DiVinci to the Wright Brothers. They even get the chance to travel back in time to meet Vincent Van Gogh on painting suggestions, electrical tips from Ben Franklin and catch a home run baseball from Jackie Robinson. They travel to ancient Egypt, drop in on the Trojan War and make Mona Lisa crack a smile while playing with Jimi Hendrix's fender guitar upside down. Fans of the classic Jay Ward TV show may take longer in adjusting to the new voices and dialogue here which zip along briskly. Ty Burrell (TV's Modern Family)is the voice of Mr. Peabody; newcomer Max Charles("The Neighbors" plays Sherman. But the witty word play and pull out all stops supporting cast makes it pay off well. With the supporting voices of Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann(who are hilariously funny),and Ariel Winter(as Penny,the bully who torments Sherman)along with Patrick Warburton, Stanley Tucci and an hilariously funny Mel Brooks as Leonardo Di Vinci . Director Rob Minkoff("The Lion King"),who is a huge fan of the show brings the characters to life here and it is a feast for the eyes that kids and adults(who grew up watching the show) would really like. This is one of the more successful movies based on characters from Jay Ward that did phenomenol business at the boxoffice raking in more than $32 million to become the second highest grossing weekend opening animated film behind "The Lego Movie". Where other movies based on Jay Ward TV-cartoons flop at the boxoffice ("Rocky and Bullwinkle", "George of the Jungle", "Dudley Do-Right", "Underdog"),"Mr. Peabody and Sherman" proved that characters based on Saturday Morning cartoon characters are moneymakers indeed,if given the right chance.