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Spartacus: Blood and Sand – The Complete First Season

SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND: 1ST SEASON (DVD MOVIE) Product DescriptionBetrayed by the Romans. Forced into slavery. Reborn as a Gladiator. The classic tale of the Republic’s most infamous rebel comes alive in the graphic and visceral new series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Torn from his homeland and...

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300: The Complete Experience

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 29-08-2010

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2 HOURS OF EXCLUSIVE EXTRA CONTENT – Prepare for Blu-ray glory and immerse yourself in the 300 experience as never before possible. THE COMPLETE 300: A COMPREHENSIVE IMMERSION – This NEW interactive picture-in-picture experience provides 3 unique perspectives to explore while you watch the film: * CREATING A LEGEND: Frank Miller and Zack Snyder Interpret a Classic Tale – Holding true to Frank Miller’s love of history and the importance of bringing a pure adaptation to sc… More >>

300: The Complete Experience

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A more intense shot of testosterone you will not find in any film. Equal parts bravado, guts and glory, “300” is simply the most exciting film to come out this year – or in several. Criticized for its violence and gore, fans of Miller’s graphic novels will find that violence and gore to be as beautifully depicted on the screen as in the print version. A highly hyped CGI affair the cast could easily have been overcome by the sheer impressiveness of the physical production. To his credit director Zack Snyder is blessed with and uses a cast every bit equal to the challenge of competing with Miller’s dark fantastic take of the Spartan’s greatest story.

Gerard Butler (Phantom of the Opera, Dear Frankie, etc.) adds yet another impressive and wildly different character to his arsenal of screen roles. As Leonidas, King of Sparta, Butler is, from his pigtail to his muscled, sandled feet, every inch a king; a true leader of men. His passion and intensity is matched by a splendid performance by Lena Headey as his wife, Queen Gorgo. Though a dutiful wife and a woman in an age when being such was near equal to slave status, she is, in her way, as bold and fearless as her husband/King. Dominic West is properly evil and oily as the traitor Theron and he’s as nasty and duplicitous a villain as one can hope for. Rodrigo Santoro as a larger-than-life Xerxes is both comical and fearfully creepy equal parts drag queen and wanna be god. Behind all the glitzy piercings and bling, he is little more than self-inflated egotistical child.

While there is blood and gore aplenty, the film also happens to be emotionally satisfying and I found myself with tears welling up in my eyes more than a few times, as well as wanting to raise my fist in the air along with the jacked-up Spartans! While a macho stoicism pervades their attitudes, there are, to be sure, signs of a greater humanity beneath those ripped abs of Sparta’s army – and plenty of heart.

Parallels and allegories are already being drawn between today’s warring world climate, super power dominations and the world of ancient Greece and the Middle East. While this provides an interesting commentary, I heartily recommend leaving that baggage at home and appreciating “300” on its own and embracing its escapism.

Larry Fong’s cinematography ensures that “300” is eye-poppingly glorious from start to finish – a magnificent feast for the eyes while Tyler Bates’s score is guaranteed to keep your adrenaline pumping as it matches – frame-for-frame the visual intensity presented on the screen. While critics are divided on this one, audiences are flocking to it and cheering. For good reason, too: “300” is magnificent old-fashioned story telling wed to the very best 21st century filmmaking has to offer. See it!
Rating: 5 / 5

Ah, to be male in Ancient Greece: “300” is a testosterone-driven fantasy in which all men are fearless warriors, driven by the need for battle and bloodshed. War is depicted as gloriously as any geek loner-type could hope for, with every soldier being the epitome of strength, courage, and physical brute force. Emotional bonding, sensitivity, and compassion don’t even come into play; these men were trained to be ruthless killing machines, all in the name of preserving the glory of Sparta. This would no doubt be a ridiculous film if the story were presented in a straightforward, mainstream way. But straightforward and mainstream, “300” is not; this is pure, hard-driving escapism, from the frenetic battle sequences to the elaborate special effects to the over the top performances. In this sense, it’s absolutely brilliant.

And it gets even better. Every shot, every setting, and every event is accentuated by a look so stylized that it’s practically a living duplicate of Frank Miller’s original graphic novel. This was achieved through computer-generated imagery, which was responsible for creating most of the film’s locations. Bluescreen technology–also utilized for another incredible Miller adaptation, 2005’s “Sin City”–made for a majority of the sets, leaving very little for the actors to actually work with. I can only imagine the effort that went into post-production, the endless hours of crafting landscapes, characters, and special effects all with the click of a mouse. The work paid off; the end product is an effectively heightened reinterpretation of reality, a kind of living illustration that transcends any sense of time or place. It’s the perfect look for war story of this caliber, something so grandiose and overplayed that you can’t get enough.

The plot is fairly simple: it’s a retelling of the 480 BC Battle of Thermopylae, in which the Spartans fought against the Persians. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his army of a mere 300 soldiers are ready to defend their land against the evil King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). This is despite the fact that 1) they don’t have the blessing of the gods to go to war, and 2) they will fight against an army of over one million. But this matters not; Spartan males are trained to be warriors at a very early age, essentially the day that they’re born (only the largest, strongest newborns are spared; the small, sickly ones are unceremoniously thrown off of a cliff). They are taught the fine art of combat. They are made to take all kinds of physical pain, including lashings. They are conditioned to never retreat, even when facing insurmountable odds. Leonidas successfully survived such rigorous training (his first major battle was against a monstrous wolf with glowing eyes), as did the rest of his men. Now, they are ready for battle.

And after taking position near a beachfront cliff, the Spartans engage in ferocious battle with the Persians. Never on film has war been so much fun to watch. This is probably because each sequence was beautifully photographed; even graphic shots of stabbings, amputations, and decapitations are so artfully constructed that it’s hard to accept them as deplorable. The bodies of Persian soldiers are used to construct a blockade of surprising strength. Blood spatters from gaping wounds in dark, unrealistic globules, effectively looking more like spots of ink. There’s a moment when arrows fly through the air in numbers so vast, they block the light of the sun. Nearly every shot is drawn out, often going in slow motion to show how carefully choreographed the gratuitous violence is.

The Spartans also fight against the Immortals, an army of ghastly yet fantastical creatures with an appetite for destruction. They were appropriately crafted as one-dimensional barbarians, made more effective because of their appearances; they wear long black robes, and their pale, monstrous faces are hidden behind Tragedy-style silver masks. Where they came from is anyone’s guess. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, especially since they pave the way for a number of other ghoulish creatures that would give the creations of Clive Barker a run for their money. They–and every aspect of the film, for that matter–make it obvious that the real emphasis is on style instead of story, which under different circumstances would make for a miserable experience. But in this case, it works quite well; while a definite story is being told, it would be of little significance were it not for the special effects.

This isn’t to say that the story of “300” is bad. Quite the opposite: despite being simplistic, the story is quite strong, especially when a couple of subplots are factored in. Back in Sparta, Leonidas’ wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), is up against a corrupt Senate, already bought out by the Persians in order to ensure Sparta’s stability. The arrogant and treacherous Theron (Dominic West) is clearly not ready to handle a woman of such strength, especially since she fully supports Leonidas and Sparta’s involvement in the war. Because she intends to plead to the Council for the deployment of more soldiers, Theron challenges her authority by exclaiming that her words will fall on deaf ears.

Another subplot involves Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan), a hunchbacked, hideously deformed Spartan who begs to join with Leonidas and fight against the Persians. Leonidas appreciates his passion, but refuses to let him fight; he’s unable to lift his shield, and this would only create a weak spot in their defense system. Feeling rejected, Ephialtes personally appeals to Xerxes, who promises a wealth of power, money, and pleasure in exchange for loyalty. This scene takes place in Xerxes’ den, in which a throng of misshapen creatures engages in an orgy. Before “300,” I never would have believed that any film could include such a scene, or at least a scene that would work in any way, shape, or form. I was wrong; it was a fascinating scene, forcing the viewer to reassess what is beautiful and what is ugly.

The film is narrated by Dilios (David Wenham), a Spartan soldier with a hard-edged masculinity that shines through despite a deceptively soft voice. He recalls Leonidas, Sparta, and the Battle of Thermopylae with eloquence; when considering the heavy-handedness of war, this is no small task. Yet he always gives a perfect delivery, and that only strengthens the appeal of “300.” This is in a world all its own, a world dominated by battle cries, sword fights, and bare-chested men that are ripped like bodybuilders. It’s all thanks to Frank Miller, whose creative vision has allowed for a truly unique theatrical experience. If he creates another graphic novel, I can’t wait for it to be adapted for the big screen.
Rating: 5 / 5

As a guy, if this film doesn’t get your blood churning and your testosterone pumped up to a deliriously critical level, well, you’re either dead inside or you’re a Tibetan monk with complete mastery over your cardiovascular and hormonal systems. 300 is a man’s man’s man’s flick and is a muscular love poem which celebrates the ideals of honor, courage, sacrifice, and standing up for your beliefs. Righteous stuff.

Not being much of a history buff, the only famous last stands I can instantly come up with are the Battles of the Alamo, of the Little Big Horn, and of Thermopylae (I guess I could also throw in Game 7 between the Lakers and the Blazers, 2000). Of these, the legendary Battle of Thermopylae is the most dramatic and is the mother of all last stands. I first heard about the Battle of Thermopylae (480BC) and the 300 Spartans way back when I was in high school, and I thought it a nifty story from the very first. A few years ago, I read Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300 and enjoyed it tremendously, not caring at all that he altered things here and there as he opted instead to focus on the story’s artistry, its sense of grandeur, and its mythological aspects. The filmmakers, make no mistake, take their cue from Mr. Miller. Remnants of historical facts are still somewhat represented under the film’s glossy veneer but with some tweaking. You just have to see past the somewhat ridiculous parade of grotesque LORD OF THE RINGS-like creatures which Xerxes and director Zack Snyder send out.

SPOILERS begin now:

The film itself begins with the voiceover detailing the austere Spartan credo as we watch a baby boy quickly transition thru several phases of maturation as he grows into a young man, all the while being instructed and severely tested in the extremely brutal and uncompromising warrior ways of his people. We see him confronting his final test and craftily passing it, thus officially entering the ranks of Spartan soldierhood. This young man is Leonidas, who will become the king of the Greek city-state, Sparta.

We pick up decades later as a Persian emissary pays a visit to King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his proud, beautiful wife and Queen, Gorgo (Lena Headey). The Persian calls for Sparta’s submission to Xerxes, the God-King of Persia. After some deliberation, Leonidas’s response isn’t as much couched in diplomacy as it’s couched in a sandal which propels the haughty emissary into a deep pit. Then, against the wishes of a lecherous, inbred group of mystics (who, nevertheless, control the Oracle) and the wishy-washy Spartan council, Leonidas gathers the 300 most capable soldiers in Sparta and, armed with a clever strategic plan, marches away to take on the vast hordes of the Persian invasion. If you’ve read your Greek history, you know what happens next…

End SPOILERS.

300 is bold in its scope and relentless in its take-no-prisoners attitude. It is a sweeping and sumptuously stark visual feast and would’ve made Frank Frazetta cream on his canvas. If 300 is based on Frank Miller’s work (and it is), then Miller’s art has to have been influenced in some ways by the great Frazetta. The film is saturated in mostly monochromatic hues which lend luster and even more drama to the bold crimsons of the Spartans’ cloaks and the frequent spatters of blood and guts. I’m not normally a fan of slo-mo sequences, but I have to admit that, this time, the slo-mo-abruptly-segueing-into-fluid-motion (yeah, I think that’s the technical term) bits are nicely executed and result in more thrilling battle scenes. The sword/spear fights are so stylized anyway that, after a while, they resemble a form of ballet. But a manly ballet, with hair on it. And, I don’t often mention music in relation to films, but composer Tyler Bates truly adds an extra dimension of thrills with his thundering, pulse-pounding score. For sure, I’m gonna own this soundtrack.

Gerard Butler comes into his own here. With his compelling and righteous performance, with towering machismo sweating out of his pores, he out-GLADIATORs Russell Crowe and, by comparison, reduces that silly ponce into a puddle of wussiness. No doubt, you and I’ll be directly quoting from Leonidas in days to come: “This…is…SPARTA!” or “Tonight, we dine in Hell!” or (my favorite) “Give them nothing but take from them…everything!” As Leonidas, Butler displays all the innate qualities of leadership necessary to command an elite force like the Spartans, he’s very convincing. Yet, his fierce and uncompromising temperament and his joy in battle are tempered by the obvious love and respect he holds for his wife. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, by his ideals and actions, he paved the way for the Greeks eventually routing the Persian masses.

Lena Headey as the beleaguered Queen proves to be a match for Leonidas as she attempts to fight tooth and nail on the homefront to get the council off its collective arses and muster reinforcements for her husband. As Gorgo, Headey works hard to be fierce, dedicated, intelligent, and realistic. The actress is successful as I never doubted for a sec that this resolute woman is a Spartan to the very core. Her main adversary is the virulent Theron (Dominic West), a politician who reeks of underhandedness while holding a certain resemblance to Harry Hamlin. Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro has a showy but crucial part as the towering and deep-voiced King Xerxes.

In the world of sword-and-sandal cinema, 300 quickly separates itself from the likes of TROY and ALEXANDER. I’d place it at the same excellent level as GLADIATOR. The story is unmatchable in its timelessness and resonance, the action is non-stop and visually compelling, the images are oh-so-memorable, and the lead characters are mezmerizing. And, from a mythological standpoint and in terms of cultural impact, the brave yet tragic 300 Spartans strike a chord as no other heroes do as they continue to be a testament to steadfast loyalty and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. “Go tell the Spartans…”

Rating: 5 / 5

Frank Miller adaptations are on a roll. First we got “Sin City,” and now we have the story of three hundred Spartans who repelled a massive invasion.

And the adaptation of “300” is a stunning one — literally stunning, since it bombards the viewer with larger-than-life characters, smashing visuals and tight direction. It goes a bit too fast for its own good, but it’s a truly epic film that takes the historical war movie to another level — all the more so because it actually happened.

As the introduction tells us, the Spartans were the ultimate warrior people. Babies were inspected for weakness or faults, and killed if they had any; as they were growing up, they were taught and toughened by a savage regimen. Their only true hope was to “die beautifully” for their land.

A Persian messenger arrives, telling King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) that the god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) wants the Spartans to bow to him. Leonidas’ response: shove the Persians into a pit. But before he can go to war, he must consult the corrupt priesthood of Ephors and their beautiful Oracle. She predicts that Sparta will fall and the gods forbid war at the approach of the Carneaian festival — courtesy of a hefty bribe from a Spartan traitor.

So Leonidas takes out three hundred of his best men, along with their nervy Arcadian allies, and begin trouncing the Persians. But they are being sabotaged, both by a hunchbacked outcast and by a treacherous councilor, whom Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) is battling. And so at Thermopylae, Leonidas prepares for a final battle against the monstrous Persian Army — knowing that their story of freedom will live on.

This is not a “sensitive” movie where you have any appreciation for the bad guys — it’s a glorification of three hundred soldiers who died for their land and freedom. It just wouldn’t work otherwise. It doesn’t blindly adore the Spartans — we see their darker side in their “weed out the weak” policy — but it does appreciate them. They respect and care about each other, and Leonidas is as kind as he can be even to Ephialtes, the traitor.

And it’s done in a manner appropriate to its comic book origins — grimy, bloody and epic, but with a stylized look that is almost like CGI. The battles are shockingly good, and full of fantasy-ish creations like the monstrous creatures or the silver-masked Immortals. Even a wall of corpses. But we also get some beautiful visuals as well — roiling seas, sunlit battlefields, Spartan cities, and the drugged Oracle in her white veil.

While the script gets a bit over-the-top at times, it’s hard not to be moved by dialogue that can be darkly funny (“It’s just an eye. The gods saw fit to grace me with a spare”) or stirring (“He did not wish tribute, nor song, or monuments or poems of war and valor. His wish was simple: “Remember us.” That was his hope, should any free soul come across that place, in all the countless centuries yet to be”).

Butler and Headey are simply great as Leonidas and Gorgo — they’re both strong, passionate and fearless, and they both do a great job in their separate storylines. But the movie is filled with good performances — David Wenham as the narrator, Dominic West as a disgusting traitor, Santoro as the decadent, arrogant god-king, and many others.

This version contains both the regular and high-def versions, and apparently contains a small wealth of extras — featurettes about the history of Thermopylae and the 300 Spartans, photo galleries, info on the Spartan culture, commentary, deleted scenes, and info on Frank Miller (who, of course, wrote the original graphic novel). It’s sort of the decorative icing on a cake — not necessary to enjoy the film, but it makes it just a bit better.

“300” is a unique, stirring, stunning movie that pushes the action-movie envelope, and gives a thrilling edge to a real-life story of overwhelming power. A brilliant movie.
Rating: 5 / 5

For those of you who came to read reviews of this movie only to be bombarded by format “War”riors let me try to set the record straight for some people who don’t know. I am not partial to either format, I own players and discs of both formats.

I will be in line to buy this movie on HD-DVD opposed to Blu-ray and here is why.

Don’t believe all the hype of Blu-ray having better picture and audio. NOT TRUE, in any instance I can think of where the studio releases a movie on both formats, they will use the same master to transfer the video on both formats. Therefore you are down to the codecs used on each format which will give HD-DVD (which uses the VC-1 codec) a slight edge over Blu-ray. Blu-Ray will rarely use VC-1(which is usually better) and often use the older MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 codecs.

As for sound, there is rarely an instance where a movie available on HD or BR will have a superior audio track on BR unless it has the uncompressed PCM audio. For some reason many studios skimp in this department with few exceptions on their BR release and give them a meager Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround at 640kbps, while encoding the HD-DVD with Dolby Digital TrueHD at (1.5 Mbs). With the extra capacity Blu-Ray totes, it means nothing if they don’t use it.

The truth of the matter is, both formats will most likely be around for a while. If a studio releases a film in both formats you will most likely have to compare the two and decide which is better based on the video codec and audio track available on each disc, the better quality audio and video will usually be on the HD-DVD not to mention features, extras, internet connectivity and the “In Movie Experiences (“IME”) which Blu-Ray is not capable of yet as of this writing.

Now for the final deciding factor, after all I have mentioned, if a movie available in both formats is encoded with identical audio, video, extra features etc. which one will I purchase if the price is close….

Blu-Ray. I feel the Blu-Ray has a better scratch resistant coating on it’s surface whereas the HD-DVD has the same coating as a regular DVD which will scratch fairly easily, even when wiped with a proper cloth. I have also noticed, that dust seems to stick to the HD-DVD more readily than the Blu-Ray discs.

On 300, the audio and video specs are identical on both formats. However, this HD-DVD will be a winner over Blu-Ray because of the extra features Blu-Ray will not have. Another example is Blood Diamond only due to extra features.

Lastly, I don’t like combo discs. They cost more when I won’t use the standard definition side. It deters customers with its inflated price and hurts HD-DVD’s overall sales at a time when they need to be selling as many discs as possible.

By the way, 300 is a good movie and contrary to some misinformation in other reviews, THIS DISC WILL PLAY IN A STANDARD DVD PLAYER because it is a COMBO DISC!!!!

Hope this review helps those of you who are new to the High Definition world or those not into following the entire hubbub and marketing ploys of the formats.

Rating: 5 / 5

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