626 Evolution

“The voice-overs in my head are urging me to kill this.”

Rarely, if ever, have I seen a film so thoroughly derailed by one bad decision. There’s potential here, and those involved have some decent track records as well. Director Lyde did the last two installments of the Mythica saga, including the best one, Mythica: The Iron Crown, which was far more fun than it should have been. Chuchran, similarly, proved eminently worth watching in Survivor, also directed by Lyde, so I was hopeful the combination of the two would strike further pay-dirt with this collaboration.

There are two heroines here, both of whom are young women, and who possess psychic abilities including telekinesis. The younger one, known as 449 (Jones), due to the tattoo on the back of her neck, is a foster kid in an abusive home, who doesn’t have much better luck with life at school. After thinking she has killed her foster father, she runs off, but is fortunate enough to bump into 626 (Chuchran), who is similarly blessed/cursed with mental talents. Recognizing a psychic sister, she takes 449 under her wing. But it soon transpires, that both women are being tracked by the shadowy scientific research company behind them both, and who are far from willing to let their assets escape. Rather than running, 626 opts to head into the lion’s den, and find out the truth about their murky past.

The approach taken is heavy on the found footage, with a lot of material which is supposed to be taken from security cameras, drones, etc. as well as the cameras with which both subjects have unknowingly been implanted. If you’ve got a high tolerance for first-person POV, this aspect doesn’t work badly, and is an interesting commentary on our modern “surveillance society,” where just about everyone is being watched, all the time. Chuchran also carries her scenes more than adequately, right from the first time we see her, engaging in a brawl in a car-park. She knows her way around a fight scene, and I’m going to keep following her progress. The visual effects depicting the powers are lightly used but effective enough – as much to enhance scenes, as carry them entirely.

Then we get to the mistake. For some, inexplicable reason, the film adds a narration – I’m presuming by Jones – which is just horrendous. It’s entirely superfluous, never adding anything of note: it’s less an internal monologue, than a sub-MST3K wannabe. Imagine being trapped in a cinema, next to a precocious 12-year-old hyped out of her little mind on sugary treats, who insists on providing a running commentary to the film. That’s about what you get here, though it’s likely even worse in the execution than your imagination. I have no clue why anyone ever thought this might enhance proceedings, because they were wildly incorrect. It takes what could have been a decent slice of small-scale paranoia, and turns it into something which occasionally becomes nigh-on unwatchable. Pity, really.

Dir: John Lyde
Star: Danielle Chuchran, Ruby Jones,

.357: Six Bullets for Revenge

“As the crow lies…”

It wasn’t until the end, when the credits ran and I saw someone’s name I knew, that I realized this was actually a local production, shot here in Phoenix. Maybe I should have been paying more attention, or maybe that just speaks to the bland lack of place present in this low-budget Crow knock-off. For, despite the poster which is obviously riffing off another comic-book movie, this one is clearly inspired by Alex Proyas’s cult classic. I am, however, pleased to report that the lead star here did actually make it through the entirety of production with a pulse, so they come out ahead of their inspiration in that department.

On their wedding night, Eric – yes, as in Eric Draven – and Jade (Love) have their nuptials rudely interrupted by a gang of thugs belonging to Lyle Barnes (Ames), due to Eric having skipped out on them with Jade and, more importantly, fifty grand. He is killed; she is brutally assaulted and wakes up the next morning beside his corpse, with one though on her mind: vengeance. She trades her wedding ring for a gun at a pawn shop, and with the assistance of a mysterious stranger, Hammer (Williamson), begins a relentless pursuit of those responsible for her husband’s demise, all the way up the chain of command to Barnes.

The problem with being such an obvious copy, from the page-flipping opening credit sequence, to the black, feathery wings worn by Jade as she goes about her business, is you’re inevitably going to be measured at every step against your inspiration. And when you are going up against an undeniable cult classic, it’s unlikely to be a positive comparison. If this had taken the same basic elements, but gone in its own direction, I’d likely have been more tolerant of its flaws, most notably fight scenes which are ploddingly assembled – apparently from flat-packs with an Allen wrench. And a low budget is absolutely no excuse for the apparent lack of originality, which is the main problem here.

Fred Williamson’s presence helps elevate things, but it’s clear they only had him around for a couple of days, and his character’s departure from the film is every bit as abrupt as his arrival [though I was amused by him being called Hammer, that basically being what Fred calls himself!] If he had lurked in the background for the entire movie, providing motivation and guidance, it would have been better. William Katt, playing a sleazy pawnshop guy, also stands out, but Love’s performance isn’t enough to overcome an ill-considered costume, which feels like it came off the remainder rail at Hot Topic. The grindhouse aspects offer a welcome dose of grime, and is perhaps the one area where this does manage to surpass its predecessor, with the film offering copious female nudity (from just about everyone bar the heroine, who may have been body-doubled). This probably isn’t quite enough to justify it as a viewing experience.

Dir: Brian Skiba
Star: Laurie Love, Brian Ames, Krystle Delgado, Fred Williamson

47 Meters Down

“Nobody expects the sharkish inquisition!”

Stealing from both Open Water and The Shallows, this takes two sisters on a scuba-diving trip in Mexico. There’s Lisa (Moore) and Kate (Holt): the latter is all gung-ho about the chance to dive with sharks, while the former is considerably less enthusiastic, about life in general, being on the wrong side of a break-up. And, whaddya know, her concerns prove to be entirely valid, as the chain of the observation cage snaps, sending them plunging 150 feet down into the water. Air is limited, the sharks are circling, and they’ve fallen out of radio range with the boat above. How are they going to survive?

I’ve read thoroughly scathing reviews of this from scuba divers, criticizing a number of technical aspects – for instance, their air would be woefully insufficient. As someone who has never even snorkeled, I can only acknowledge these and move on, since they didn’t impact my opinion much. Though I have to say, I did notice how novice diver Lisa becomes remarkably proficient over the course of the film, even swapping out her tank on the fly, something I imagine isn’t a novice task. It is necessary to accept that the entire thing is inevitably going to be highly contrived: the sharks appear only when required, and don’t attack when that’s needed, too. These are creatures, strictly necessary to the plot, and it’s a mechanism which is largely par for the genre course. Who needs motivation? They’re freakin’ sharks!!!

Still, for what it is, this does the job, the director pushing the appropriate buttons with a degree of competence. After a somewhat shaky opening reel, where you wonder how much of the film is going to be emotion-driven, it settles down to what matters. This means a straightforward Problem → Solution → Execution cycle, with the sisters having to come up with strategies for the issues as they arise. Having two leads does help avoid the awkward structure we saw in The Shallows, with the heroine speaking to a conveniently wounded seagull, largely in order to avoid 80 minutes without dialogue. Fortunately for this film, Lisa and Kate are conveniently wearing masks with radios, so they can emote to each other, instead of being limited to enthusiastic hand-signals.

The ending is certainly reminiscent of another movie you’ll find on this site. I’ll avoid explicit spoilers, but it got our seal of approval, and if you’ve seen the film in question, you’ll certainly look askance at the wholesale hijacking carried out here. It’s this general lack of many ideas entirely its own, which prevents this from being as successful as it might be. The performances and direction are good enough for the job, and it laudably avoids any romantic interest worth mentioning at all. This film instead has a single goal, much like sharks are machines with one purpose: killing… Killing and eating. Their two purposes are killing and eating. And making little sharks. Their three purposes are killing, eating, and making little sharks. And an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. Er, among their purposes are such elements as…

I’ll come in again.

Dir: Johannes Roberts
Star: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt
a.k.a. In the Deep

2320 Days in the Jungle

“[Crosses Colombia off holiday list]”

2320daysIn February 2002, Ingrid Betancourt was travelling through a rural area of Colombia, as part of her campaign in the presidential election for the Green Party. She was stopped at a road-block run by the Marxist rebel organization, FARC, and when they realized who they had, she and her assistant, Clara Rojas, were kidnapped. Betancourt would spent more than six years of jungle captivity with the guerillas, until she was rescued, in a startling piece of deception, by Colombian military forces. This documentary film tells her story, through archive footage and interviews with Betancourt, Rojas, other kidnappees and some of the FARC members.

The term “you couldn’t make this stuff up” gets thrown around a lot, but it’s probably apt here. The clearest example is the end, and the way Betancourt and her colleagues were freed. The authorities tapped into FARC’s communications channels and inserted an order that a humanitarian group would be transporting the hostages to meet the rebels’ leader. Except, the alleged group were actually soldiers pretending to be aid workers and journalists. They arrived, landing in a coca field with their helicopters, collected the prisoners and a couple of FARC officers, then took off, before taking the officers into custody and telling the kidnap victims, “We are the Colombian army. You are free.” [This deception was likely wise, since there had been a number of disastrous attempts to liberate other hostages by military means, ending in their death]

Many other facets also defy belief, from Betancourt’s multiple unsuccessful escape attempts through to Rojas getting pregnant by one of the guards, and being given a Caesarean section in the middle of the jungle.  It has to have been a hellish existence, the hostages being moved from place to place through the rain-forest to avoid being located by the authorities who were hunting for them – at one point, they were marched 40 days, for up to 12 hours a day. Her captors also deliberately attempted to spread dissension among their captives, in order to stop them from trusting each other and formulating escape plans. And it seems to have worked: even after his release, one of those held with Betancourt heavily criticized her, saying she was “the most disgusting human being I’ve ever encountered.” It’s always the way with documentaries; you’re never sure if you’re getting the whole story.

There’s certainly evidence of tension between Betancourt and Rojas. The former seems more actively inclined to try and escape, while the latter appears to be trying to avoid doing anything that could inflame their situation. During one of her breaks for freedom, Betancourt was spotted by a young female FARC fighter and tried to convince her they should leave together. The rebel said she understood, and that she also had a child in the outside world – but if she left, FARC would hunt them down and kill them both. I’d like to have heard more about these attempts, rather than hostage infighting, but this is still a chilling and effective story, which would make one hell of a movie.

Dir: Angus Macqueen
Star: Ingrid Betancourt, Clara Rojas, Luis Eladio Perez, Marc Gonsalves
a.k.a. Hostage in the Jungle

The 14 Amazons

“Never mind the quality, count the heroines!”

14amazonsYes, you certainly can’t argue about the quantity here, with four generations of a family being represented, from “Grand Dame” matriarch (Lu), through widow Mu Kuei-ying (Po) all the way down to her great-granddaughter. They are forced into action after the Mu’s husband is killed on the border of the Chinese empire, trying to repel an attack by Mongolian hordes. The government wants to sue for peace, but Mu and the rest of her family have vengeance on their mind, and march off to the front, in direct disobedience of official orders. The journey is fraught with danger, as they are ambushed going through a narrow pass and their supplies lost, forcing them to eat tree bark, but Mu and her forces press on, raiding their enemies’ camp to bring back food, as they battle their way towards the inevitable final showdown with the the leader of the Mongols, Wang Wen (Tien).

It’s more than a little confusing, not least because the “male” heir Yang Wen Kuang is played by Lily Ho, and they don’t make even the slightest effort to make her look other than female. That took me a while to work out. It’s also true that, with such a high number of characters, the great majority are severely under-developed, with less than a handful getting enough screen time that you give a damn when they are killed. Must confess, if they had worn jerseys with numbers on the back, it would have helped to differentiate them, because they all look kinda the same, especially when dressed in their military garb. The film’s plot also has moments of utter implausibility, with the “human bridge” sequence among the most “I’m so sure…” I’ve seen in some time. And last but not least, the Mongols’ uniforms looks unfortunately festive – red hats with white fur trim – giving the impression China is being invaded by a horde of Santa’s little helpers.

Yet despite the significant flaws, this is an entertaining epic, with a good sense of spectacle, and it’s nice to see a film from this era where the characters’ sex is virtually a non-factor (once they’ve escaped official jurisdiction, at least).  For the most part, everyone behaves with surprising smarts – even the Mongols aren’t portrayed as dumb barbarians, though their savagery is certainly not underplayed. Cheng delivers the battle sequences impressively enough, and you can see why this was one of the top box-office hits in Hong Kong for the year it was made, 1972. The same source material was mined again almost 40 years later, as Legendary Amazons  (from our review of which, I confess, I recycled the tagline above!), and I would just have to give the edge to the original, because of its intelligent approach to the story. Whatever the remake gains in whizzy CGI and arguably superior cast, the plot makes a good deal more sense here, and I’ll take that any day.

Dir: Cheng Gang + Charles Tung
Star: Ivy Ling Po, Lisa Lu, Lily Ho, Tien Feng

13 Frightened Girls!


“Candy is dandy.”

3_13-frightened-girls-three-sheet-1963Though he produced Rosemary’s Baby, the legendary William Castle is best known for his gimmicky horror flicks such as The Tingler or House on Haunted Hill, which sought to enhance the cinematic experience with things like “Emergo” [a plastic skeleton on wires that flew out into the audience]. They’re awesome. This title sounds like another one – not least because it evokes his own 13 Ghosts from three years previously – and the poster (right) does little to dismiss that belief, but it is actually closer to Spy Kids. Not that Castle abandoned his eye for publicity, generating it here by an “international contest” to find the titular baker’s dozen, who could play the daughters of diplomats from 13 different countries. However, the film itself is played straight, and while undeniably dated, is so in an generally adorable matter. Who knew the Cold War – for this came out less than a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis – could be such fun?

The heroine is Candy Hull (Dunn), 16-year-old daughter of an American diplomat stationed in London, who attends an exclusive private school with the other diplo-daughters. They all hang out quite happily, entirely unfazed by the political shenanigans of the adults, more concerned with typical teenage girl things, such as boys and being popular. Candy, however, has her heart set on the embassy’s chief spy, Wally Sanders (Hamilton, whom you may recognize as the mayor in Jaws!). Through her friendship with Chinese girl Mai-Ling (Moon), she stumbles into, and defuses a plot to frame her father (Marlow) for the murder of a Russian liberal, leaving the evidence for Wally under the nom-de-guerre of “Kitten”. Wally is amazed, and Candy discovers that being a teenage girl with “diplomatic immunity” is a great cover to hear gossip and not have anyone pay you attention. However, her success eventually brings her notoriety, and the Chinese call on “The Spider” to find and kill the spy who has been leaking all their secrets.

It’s a weird mix, cutesy with some fairly grim moments, such as Candy having to yank a blade out of a corpse, and a non-zero body count: I’m not sure who the target audience was for this. Some aspects do seem strange to contemporary eyes. Candy is perhaps too “grown-up”, and her crush on him now seems wholly inappropriate, their relationship causing Chris to mutter “pedophile!” under her breath on multiple times – not least when Wally threatens to spank her! But given the tenseness of the times, it’s far less polemic than it could be, not painting all Reds as bad, and it’s clear that whatever may have changed over the past 50 years, teenage girls clearly haven’t. Dunn makes for a plucky heroine, and there’s genuine tension here on occasion.

Dir: William Castle
Star: Kathy Dunn, Murray Hamilton, Hugh Marlowe, Lynne Sue Moon
a.k.a. The Candy Web


1632, by Eric Flint

Literary rating: starstarstarstarstarhalf
Kick-butt quotient: action2action2action2action2actionhalf

1632Veteran science-fiction writer Eric Flint, the author of this opening book in his Ring of Fire series, self-identifies with the political Left; but his is an old- fashioned, Jeffersonian sort of populist liberalism, which embraces democracy, human rights, religious freedom (as opposed to “freedom from religion”), personal moral responsibility, retributive justice, and widespread gun ownership. When the small town of Grantville, West Virginia is transported, through a super-advanced alien race’s meddling with the fabric of space-time, to Germany during the Thirty Years War, the residents are willing to fight for these principles, in the midst of a maelstrom of rampant evil and oppression; and the reader is soon caught up in cheering them on!

As one might expect, there’s a lot of graphic violence here –the real Thirty Years War was no Sunday school picnic either– but Flint’s characters (at least, the good guys and gals) employ violence only as an instrument of moral order, not in opposition to it. The premise here is really original, and it’s worked out in believable detail that brings it vividly to life; there’s a good balance between action and the quieter aspects of life that build our understanding of the characters and their relationships; the pacing is brisk, and the characters are well-rounded and thoroughly life-like. (Grantville’s local UMW leader, Mike Stearnes, is nominally the protagonist, but there’s really no one “main” hero or heroine; Flint follows a number of characters who play important roles.) Well-researched actual history is incorporated seamlessly into the narrative (I learned some fascinating stuff I didn’t know before, and I majored in history!).

For readers who follow this site, one of the main attractions here are three gun-toting ladies (all of them major characters) who earn the stars above for the kick-butt quotient. High school cheerleader Julie Sims becomes the ace sharpshooter for Grantville’s thrown-together army. (She was seriously training to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in shooting events before the time-travel incident –and my guess is that she’d have not only qualified, but brought home the gold medal.) Sexually-abused camp follower Gretchen Richter, rescued by the Americans, becomes a force to be reckoned with when she learns to use a pistol. And while a young Jewish lady named Rebecca actually isn’t a very good shot, she doesn’t need to be when she’s packing a sawed-off shotgun. If you like your fictional heroines strong, tough, gutsy, and not a bit bothered by using lethal force, you’ll appreciate these gals. (The only ones who don’t are the bad guys –and their opinion doesn’t matter much once they’re pushing up daisies!)

Note: There are a few instances of unmarried sex here, but nothing explicit; the only sex scene that’s dealt with at length takes place on a couple’s wedding night and isn’t treated in a salacious way. There is quite a bit of bad language, which often includes profanity (Flint confuses this several times with “blasphemy;” but there actually isn’t any of the latter) or the f-word.

Author: Eric Flint
Publisher: Baen Books, available through Amazon in all formats.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.



“Not entirely forgettable.”

88More by accident than design, this is the third film I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks which features amnesia as a plot-device. It’s a bit of a scripting minefield, since it’s easy to become a crutch for the writer, with the amnesia being “cured” at the moments necessary to the plot. You need a lot of discipline to avoid this: Memento is likely the platinum standard for this being done well, and to be honest, most other efforts come up short in comparison. This is no different, with an absolutely key piece of data being withheld from the audience [and the lead character] until dramatically convenient at the end – though it doesn’t exactly take Nostradamus to figure it out in advance. Gwen (Isabelle) find herself eating in a diner, with absolutely no memory of how she got there. Checking her purse, she finds a gun, and accidentally shoots a waitress. Fleeing the scene, she also discovers a key to a motel room, #88. Going there, she finds more questions than answers. What was her relationship to local mobster, Cyrus (Lloyd)? Did her really kill her boyfriend, Aster? Who is Ty (Doiron), the cheerful killer who is helping her? And why does everyone keep acting as if she’s a stone-cold killer?

This opens with a caption explaining the concept of the “fugue state”, which Wikipedia tells me is “characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality… and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity.” I note that the section there on this disorder in popular culture, is rather longer than the list of real-life incidents, since it’s pretty much an open invitation to scriptwriters, to sculpt as they see fit. The key question is how interesting the story would be without the conceit. Here, I give it a qualified passing grade, since both Gwen and Cyrus are interesting characters, the former particularly when she’s in bad-girl mode, and just not giving  damn [the same can be said about Isabelle’s most well-known performance, as a teenage werewolf in the wonderful Ginger Snaps] It’s also fun to see Lloyd, better known for his mad scientist in Back to the Future, playing a sleazy scumball, But I can’t help thinking the fractured timeline doesn’t actually add all that much to proceedings, and is only made necessary by that single point of data mentioned above. It could have been played as a straightforward revenge flick, without the psychological trappings, and been little or no less effective.

The style here is a mix of the effective and the irritating. The soundtrack seems particularly intrusive, as if the director simply set her iTunes collection on random and let it play, and the shootout at the bowling alley ends with the characters skipping merrily away across the lanes, which as someone who has tried to walk down one knows, is wildly unrealistic [a over-energetic bowl had led to my wedding ring following the ball, and I can state confidently, it’s the only location where the physics of a Tom and Jerry cartoon is actually a good approximation to real life!] But even if you work out where this is going, the underlying story is a solid one, and Isabelle’s performance does a good enough job of compelling attention, to make for a passable 90 minutes of entertainment.

Dir: April Mullen
Star: Katharine Isabelle, Christopher Lloyd, Tim Doiron, Michael Ironside

009-1: The End of the Beginning


“Spy vs. Spy”

seal009-1Partly to celebrate the 75th birthday of its late creator, Shotaro Ishinomori, the first live-action feature adaptation of his spy series 009-1 was made – it had previously been made into a TV show, during the late sixties, and a 12-episode anime series in 2006. This version was helmed by Sakamoto, best known for his work on the action in Kamen Rider and Power Rangers, but we’ve been a fan since his involvement in 1997’s Drive, with Mark Dacascos, whose fights still hold up very well today. And this is almost as much fun, combining bone-crunching action with more philosophical insights, into what it means to be human.

The heroine is Mylene (Iwasa), an orphan who was recruited by a Japanese spy group, and transformed into a cyborg superagent, equipped with enhanced senses as well as weapons in unusual places. We first see in her action dismantling a black market organ trafficking ring, and her next mission is to rescue Dr. Clyne, a scientist who was her cyber-“mother”. However, when she discovers Chris (Kinomoto), one of the victims she freed from the organ traffickers, in Clyne’s hands, awkward questions begin to be raised. When she goes off book, and is stripped of her 00 status, Mylene finds herself being hunted both by the bad guys, not the least of whom is played by Nagasawa, and her erstwhile agency allies.

While slightly more restrained on the nudity front, this feels like it could be another entry in the Naked series of movies from Hong Kong started by Naked Killer, sharing a similarly heady combination of sex and violence. Only slightly though, most obviously perhaps the sequence near the end where the heroine, wearing what can only be described as a bondage bra, is tied up and licked from toe to head by someone who’s a convincing simulacrum of her mother. Years of therapy beckon for that, me thinks. But if not perhaps fun for all the family, the action is excellent, and there is plenty to go around, with a laudable number of the chief participants on both sides being female: it’s also pretty messy, though the impact is lessened by the obvious use of CGI for much of the blood (albeit, far from all!). Fortunately, that doesn’t extend to the action, which is almost all in camera, with some stunt doubling that is kept nicely plausible.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have not consumed any of the other versions, so I cannot say how this compares to those, or the original manga. What I can say is, on its own terms, this is more than satisfactory, providing a slickly-produced piece of quality entertainment that contains plenty of hard-hitting action. The universe created certainly has room for further exploration, and I’m hoping this is successful enough that we get to see more of it.

Dir: Koichi Sakamoto
Star: Mayuko Iwasa. Minehiro Kinomoto, Nao Nagasawa, Mao Ichimichi

300: Rise of an Empire


“Faster than Greece-d lightning.”

300riseaI’m going out on a limb here, and predicting that Eva Green is going to be the next great action heroine. She seems very taken by strong female characters, from Morgan Le Fay in Camelot, through Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful, and we recently noted her contribution to the marketing for Sin City 2. But this was unexpected. We watched it, purely because we saw and enjoyed the original film, and didn’t expect this one to come anywhere near qualifying for the site. I mean, we were aware of Artemisia – almost a decade ago, Brian wrote a piece for the site, detailing why she’d be a good subject for a movie. However, we were expecting this to be an entirely macho film, likely bordering on the homoerotic, as mercilessly parodied in Meet the Spartans. We certainly didn’t expect her to be so pivotal to this sequel.

Well, technically, it’s neither sequel nor prequel to 300; it’s more of a companion piece, depicting events elsewhere around the same time, and focusing on the naval battle between the Persian forces, nominally under Xerxes (Santo), and the Greek ones of Themistocles (Stapleton). In an earlier encounter, Themistocles killed Darius, Xerxes’s father, which sent Xerxes off the deep end – carefully shepherded there by Artemisia (Green). She is a Greek citizen whose family was slaughtered by their soldiers when she was young, with her being subject to years of horrific abuse. Left for dead, she was rescued by Persians, switched sides and rose through the ranks, now seeing in Xerxes a chance to extract retribution on her former nation. Unlike Xerxes, who was portrayed in the original as Caligula with muscles, Artemisia is smart and resourceful, not making the mistake of under-estimating the Greeks in general, and Themistocles in particular. Indeed, as far as we are concerned, she was much more interesting than the hero, particularly in terms of back-story. She also kicks serious ass, both with a bow and her pair of swords.

As far as general film-making goes, this seems to have built on Spartacus, in much the same way that Spartacus built on the original 300. Indeed, there’s a fairly explicit nod to it, in the casting of Peter Mensah as Artemisia’s trainer, a similar role to the one he played in Spartacus. This means lots of slow-motion and buckets of digital gore, which seems to hit the camera lens more often than it hits anywhere else. It also perhaps means playing faster and looser with history: neither Darius’s death nor Artemisia’s fate are as depicted in the movie. But, hey, when facts conflict with drama, it makes cinematic sense for the former to give way. If what you have here occasionally topples over into video-game style, it rarely looks less than lovely, and if Artemisia wasn’t enough, we get a bonus action heroine at the end, as Queen Gorgo (Headey), leads the Spartan reinforcements into action. Now, will someone please give Green a full-on starring role in which she can kick butt, and tell me where I go to sign up?

Dir: Noam Murro
Star: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro, Lena Headey