Life-changing moments feature in each of the nine short films in this Australian anthology, and each is told with remarkable artistry and sensitivity. While the filmmakers use different styles of filmmaking, there's a clever connection between the shorts, as themes of inner longing are made resonant by earthy honesty. So even if each brief segment film feels like just a fragment of an idea, taken together the film is remarkably moving.
It opens and closes with the animated "Ash Wednesday", using the T.S. Elliot poem to explore the idea of communal memory. From here a variety of mini-stories unfurl, often using the same character names even though the films are dramas, comedies or documentaries, and many have no dialogue at all. The lighter clips include "Reunion", in which a couple (Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh) are surprised that spending Christmas with his mum isn't as awful as expected. "Cockleshell" follows a young guy (Toby Wallace) who's obsessed with the girl (Brenna Harding) next door. And both "Big World" and "Boner McPharlin's Moll" take lively kaleidoscopic looks at how reality is often nothing like our idea of how things should be.
Other segments are dark and provocative, including "Aquifer", about a man (Callan Mulvey) who is pushed by a news headline to recall a painful childhood memory. Two young boys (Jakory and Jarli-Russell Blanco) have a creepy adventure while on a beach day out with their dad and uncles in "Sand". The most moving film is "Commission", in which a young man (Josh McConville) drives to the outback to tell his estranged dad (Hugo Weaving) that his mother is dying. The best performance comes from Rose Byrne in the eponymous "The Turning", as a trailer-trash wife and mother whose friendship with a rich woman (Miranda Otto) sparks a religious epiphany. And the most unforgettable short is "Long, Clear View", impressively directed by Mia Wasikowska, which follows a young boy (Matthew Shanley) playing with his dad's rifle.
Continue reading: The Turning Review
Fans of the 2007 Spartan war romp 300 probably won't care that this spin-off is even more chaotic and much murkier to look at. It still features armies of scantily clad muscle men grunting idiotic declamatory dialogue as they charge into cartoon-style battles against all odds. No, this isn't particularly subtle filmmaking: it's loud and brutal. And good for an unintentional laugh.
At the same time as Spartan King Leonidas (a briefly glimpsed Gerard Butler) is leading his 300 men to battle against Xerses (Santoro), Greek General Themistocles (Stapleton) approaches Leonidas' wife Gorgo (Headey) for help facing Xerses vengeful military commander Artemisia (Green) on another front at sea. Themistocles' main officers are Aesyklos (Matheson) and Scyllias (Mulvey), whose son Calisto (O'Connell) secretly joins the army as they set sail for an epic ship-based battle against Artemisia's fearsome forces. And there are two more watery conflicts to come, each more outrageous than the one before, as Artemisia taunts Themistocles seductively while dispensing fiery death and destruction at every turn.
The addition of two strong women adds a bit of interest here, but the focus is still on the bare-chested men, even if only three or for of them actually emerge into proper characters. Headey's chief contribution is a rambling voiceover narration explaining everything for us, while Green's wry smirk and momentous glower let her steal every scene. By contrast, the men seem rather feeble. Stapleton is manly and commanding, but not hugely charismatic. Rising-star O'Connell barely gets two decent scenes. Santoro is hilariously grouchy eye candy. And everyone else is clearly expendable.
Continue reading: 300: Rise of an Empire Review
When Leonidas and his valiant army of 300 Spartans were wiped out by the vast forces led by Persian God King Xerxes, the rest of Greece now feel that their country has gained honour following their tragic loss. However, their battle is not over yet as Persia is rapidly sailing in for another invasion. Rival cities Sparta and Athens are forced to set aside their bitterness towards each other if they have any hope of victory - though with Xerxes on their tail with immortal power, their lives teeter on the edge. Nonetheless, the Greeks remained filled with a fierce determination following Leonidas' heroism and so Themistocles of Athens leads his naval fleet to war while Sparta's army prepares for another fight. How can they survive against a seemingly impervious God King and his female ally, the just as ruthless, sword-wielding Artemisia? Outnumbered and overpowered once again, there is still hope.
Continue: 300: Rise Of An Empire - Clips
Following Leonidas' honourable though inevitable death alongside his Spartan army of 300 at the hands of Persian God King Xerxes, the rest of Greece cannot help but feel a certain pride at the valiant effort. Now, with Persia quickly threatening invasion, rival cities Sparta and Athens must throw aside their differences and rally together to defeat their forces - but with an all-powerful king like Xerxes, their chances of survival look minimal. Nonetheless, filled with a newfound determination after Leonidas' heroic venture, Athens' naval fleet led by the admiral Themistocles set out to bring Persia down, as Sparta's army prepares another brave attack. They may be outnumbered yet again, but hope is the last thing Greece is going to give up.
Lena Headey discusses her role in '300: Rise of an Empire' and it seems there is a distinct female presence in the sequel to '300'.
300: Rise of an Empire promises to have a stronger female on-screen presence, which isn't exactly a difficult feat considering 300, released in 2007, was nothing but wash-board abs and a host of handsome men.
Lena Headey at Elle's Women in Hollywood event, held at the Four Seasons Hotel in L.A.
The sequel's list of equally butch men includes Jack O'Connell (Skins); Sullivan Stapleton (Gangster Squad); Hans Matheson (Sherlock Holmes) and Callan Mulvey (Zero Dark Thirty). David Wenham, Andrew Tiernan and Rodrigo Santora are reprising their roles from 300.