On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 24, 2014

It has been seven years since the original Zack Snyder 300 hit the big screen and the big question surrounding its belated follow-up was always going to be if the novelty of the look of the film had worn off. It was a worthy concern as it seems every major action film since has if not taken cues from the tone of the color palette and enhanced nature of it all than at least the slo-mo of the action that then speeds up to real time, making the strikes from spear to flesh all the more cringe-inducing. It was something fresh and new at the time, Snyder coming off his big win that was the Dawn of the Dead re-make and taking notes from Robert Rodriguez, but going in a different direction and one that would become more of a cultural mainstay than the more cult-worthy Sin City. Like that graphic novel, 300 was also adapted from a Frank Miller work and while Rise of an Empire doesn't take its marching orders from any pre-written comic book it at least tries to make-up for the lack of originality in the visuals by pushing the narrative to more complicated, layered lengths than the original. While 300 was never a film that needed a sequel and really deserved not to have one as a proper sequel could never be concocted Rise of an Empire ultimately gives us the events that surround the actions of the Spartans as they chose not to cooperate with the rest of Greece to fight off the invading Persians. It comes to light even more than it did in 300 that if the Spartans were anything but brave, they were arrogant and in many ways the events documented in this second film minimize the glory and honor that many in the audience no doubt imagined went along with Leonidas and his brave three hundred's beautiful deaths. They went into battle expecting death, but left their women and children with the likelihood of being turned into slaves by Persians anyway? It doesn't make much sense and ultimately seems selfish in order to adhere to the code of how they were raised than anything resembling bravery, but the good thing of all this is realizing Rise of an Empire stirred some thought in me and invoked a reaction and participation I never expected to have. Full review here. B-

I'm not sure what to make of Enemy. It is unclear what exactly I'm meant to take away from the picture, but what is clear to me is that I can't stop going over certain scenes and trying to put together the significance of the actions of the characters, of the shot choices, the color palette, the deeply intentional mood and score and why it builds at certain points and sits and broods at others. I want to understand it completely, but I don't and I know even if I offered up a theory of what I thought the final scene means it would likely be completely different from the person who was sitting next to me in the same theater. It is a film and a story meant to elicit conversation, meant to stir up academic-like discussion and it is clear from the opening moments we are in for something extremely meditative that while equally as stark and emotionally haunting (if not more so) than director Denis Villeneuve's previous effort, Prisoners, is much more in tune with its scale and its compact story. Where Prisoners was a sweeping epic of large themes Enemy plays its hand close to the chest and is all the more intriguing for it. As each new scene plays out I couldn't help but to wonder what each little thing meant, what I was intended to take away and if it would result in some revelation I'd already imagined in my mind or if it might come completely out of left field and take me with real surprise. The film opens with a quote simply stating that "chaos is order yet to be deciphered" and as we watch the strange story unravel I couldn't help but to keep repeating this little phrase in my mind and wonder in what sense it was meant to apply to our main characters. The same could be said about any number of things that different people will pick out to latch onto; what is the deeper psychological meaning of the constant references to hands? I'm not sure still, but one thing that remains clear is that I found the film to be completely fascinating and I can't wait to watch it again, to dissect it further and to see just how many different conversations I can have about it. Full review here. A

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