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Recliner Reviews for June 26, 2014

Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.

“300: Rise of an Empire”

Fans of graphic novelist Frank Miller loved the first “300” because it jumped off the pages onto the screen and screamed, “This is Sparta!” Well, now we’ve moved away from Sparta and to Athens, away from 300 men taking on an army of Persians, to the Athenian forces battling the Persians on land and sea. The number 300 really has no relevance at all here, but whatever. This movie was written by Zack Snyder as a prequel, midquel and sequel to “300.” He intended to direct as well, but chose “Man of Steel” instead and handed the duties off. Not much was lost. The film mixes new talent, Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green, with returning talent, Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro as the evil Xerxes. They even worked cameos of Gerard Butler in through the miracles of digital editing and flashbacks. The film has the same stark color contrasts – vivid black and white, splashed with red. The gore is back in all its glory. The stilted, overdramatic dialogue returns to serve its purposes. It is missing the all-or-nothing attitude of the first film, but the high-octane action makes it worth a watch.

“Pompeii”

Keeping with our Greco/Roman theme for this week, we travel over to the site of some mass destruction in Italy in 79 AD. What better place to do a mash-up of “Gladiator” and “Titanic?” To make matters worse, it’s directed by Paul W.S. Anderson – the guy responsible for the “The Resident Evil” franchise. This is a mess. For a disaster/gladiator film, there’s an awful lot of standing around and looking at each other. Some of the gladiator scenes almost make the film endurable, and Kit Harington (Jon Snow from “Game of Thrones”) does an admirable job. But scenes melt down with female lead Emily Browning delivering bogged-down dialogue, and the rest of the cast is worse. Kiefer Sutherland’s melodramatic eruptions are laughable. It all feels overdone but lifeless and leaves an ashy taste in your mouth – pass.

“The Legend of Hercules”

Now, back to Greece for our final bit of mythos – the overdone tale of Hercules – movies (both adult and animated) and TV shows have been made about this son of Zeus. Most of which have been terrible. But this time it’ll be different. This time the hero is in the hands of campy-action auteur Renny Harlin (“Cutthroat Island” and “Deep Blue Sea”). And Harlin is out to make it a star-making vehicle for “Twilight” heartthrob Kellan Lutz. Most of the cast look the same – all six packs and stylish sideburns. The scenes blur together with ho-hum action and generic dialogue. Weak character arcs, weak acting, weak plot, and weak direction – nothing about this movie is strong. But if you’re a Hercules fan, fear not, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is taking another shot at him this month with “Hercules.” But as far as this heap of Zeus dung – pass.

Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge

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