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Spartan workouts readied ‘300’ star

Posted by Jay Medina on March 21, 2007

Ethan Sacks
New York Daily News
Mar. 10, 2007 12:00 AM

For all the computer-generated wizardry that went into the stylized look of Warner Bros.’ “300,” opening 0310300gym.jpgtoday, it was old-fashioned discipline and drudgery that turned actor Gerard Butler into a Spartan warrior king.

Realizing he would have to parade around bare-chested for most of the movie adaptation of Frank Miller’s (extremely) graphic novel, the 37-year-old Scotsman trained six hours a day for almost eight months. If Butler was to convincingly play King Leonidas, who led the titular small band of soldiers against a million invading Persians in 480 B.C., he wanted to look the part.

“I knew to get that extreme power, and exude that authority and leadership and that potential violence and brutality, that I wanted to earn that,” said Butler, best known for playing the title role in 2004’s “The Phantom of the Opera.”

“I wanted to really know that I had it and not feel like one of those public-school boy actors standing up there, pretending to be tough and pretending to be big, and having the men pretending to respect him.”

So Butler started his intense regimen four months before a one-month boot camp designed to turn Hollywood actors into Spartans, and continued throughout the 60-day shoot. There were two-hour sword-fighting sessions with the film’s stunt men; squat thrusts with weights and chains; having to watch the crew eat desserts off the catering spread while actors were on forced diets.

Worst of all was the dreaded bear crawl, in which the actors had to race around on hands and feet after their legs were quivering from squats. Butler tore his hip flexor muscle doing that drill.

“Pretty much anything Mark Twight (the production’s trainer) offered up was so difficult in the kind of way where you wish you had never been born – and even more than that, wished he had never been born,” said Butler.

“You don’t look at a bunch of Spartans and go, I wonder which guy is going to pop out and be the king,'” said Zack Snyder, the film’s director. “In one shot you want to go, OK, that’s him,’ and that was how I felt about Gerry.”

The strapping 6-foot-2 actor said he’s looking forward to doing physically safer romantic comedies, like the upcoming “P.S., I Love You” with Hilary Swank.

“After the last day, I think I didn’t go back to a gym for seven months,” said Butler. “I didn’t want to see another gym in my life.”


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Movie Review: The Guardian (2006)

Posted by Jay Medina on February 20, 2007

The GuardianFirst off, let me please applaud the producers and the entire cast and crew of this movie, for shining a light on a group of truly unsung heroes.  In the movie, there are some key differences between the Navy and the Coast Guard highlighted that make this movie a nice tribute to Coast Guard Swimmers.

Now, for the movie as it stands as a movie.  Not very well, or shall I say about as well as a seasick landlubber who has yet to find his sea-legs.  It pains me to have to say that, it really does.  Even though I was never a Coastie or a Navy-type (I served 9 years in the Army), I really wanted this movie to work on all levels.  I watched it with my children, and they are tremendous fans of the movie.  Perhaps that’s my problem.  I wanted this movie to be enjoyed by people of all ages, however, it was just too predictible.

Ok, so as I write this, I can see that perhaps I need to separate my thoughts between storyline (which desperately needed a water rescue of it’s own), and the technical aspects of the film.  Let me start with the storyline, so we can then move to something more positive. 

The story has a solid premise.  An elite squad of rescue swimmers, known as Coast Guard Swimmers, live by a motto they hold dear: “So that others may live”.  The story centers around a rugged rescuer named Ben Randall, played rather well by Kevin Costner (Silverado, The Bodyguard).  As Costner has come back to acting in his last few movies, this is no exception.  He carries the role of the salty, brooding Coastie with conviction.  Randall can’t imagine a life without the Coast Guard, and rescuing people is what he loves to do. So much, so, his marriage is starting to crumble. 

As Randall is a living legend among rescue swimmers, an accident during an open-sea rescue leaves him as an instructor at the “A School” where budding rescue swimmers train to be part of the elite.  Enter a young idealistic (and motivated) Jake “Fish” Fischer, played by Ashton Cutcher (The Butterfly Effect, Dude Where’s My Car?).  There’s nothing an old-veteran can’t stand more than a young, green, motivated buck like “Fish”.  As I’ve seen Cutcher in Butterfly Effect and was quite impressed with his performance, after seeing him in The Guardian, I am convinced this lad can act! 

Sidenote: It would almost be worth discussing a theory where in real life as Cutcher is idealistic, young, and motivated to be great, Costner is being challenged to keep up and therefore brings out some of his best acting in decades.  What a parallel to the movie’s story, and one worth considering, but I digress.

As the characters become fleshed out and we start to see their vulneralbilities, it starts to create a contrast of light and dark, where their mutual desire to save lives is overshadowed by their unhappy personal pasts that they are desperately trying to compensate for.  All this creates is a beast that cannot be fed enough guilt and will continue to consume, unless a breakthough can occur.

Again, the story had some real promise, however, the love or anti-love aspect of the usual “it’s lonely being a hero” has been done to death, and I was rather hoping for a fresh take on this.  In fact any love scenes between Fish and his love interest are just downright frustrating to watch.  It almost had An Officer And A Gentleman feel to it, but I stress the word almost.

Where there is real emotion is in the scene between Randal and his new ex-wife, Helen, played by the always beautiful Sela Ward (The Fugitive, Sisters).  That is probably the one scene where you really feel the pain of heartbreak, and it doesn’t come off as being contrived.

Where we start entering to usual charted waters is during the emotional breakthrough between Randall and Fish.  With trite lines like, “I’ve been trying to figure you out, and for the life of me, I can’t seem to get through.”  Uh, why?  Why would an instructor be trying to figure someone out when at the beginning of the training school, that same crusty instructor works very hard to weed out the no-can-do’s.  In fact, up to the point of that line, all Fish did wrong was show up late after having an all-nighter with his love-interest in the film.  But, lines like that need to be said, to set up for some emotional scenes that follow. 

And that is precisely my point. It’s like everything is staged and forced, and only the acting of Costner and Cutcher can even make it watchable.  In fact, I will not give away the rest of the movie, but I won’t need to, because if you’re like me, you will feel that as you watch this movie, you’ve already seen it.  Perhaps under a different title with different actors, but this movie will give you an unshakable case of deja-vu.

Now to the technical aspects of the film.  The effects are first rate, and with some night-time rescue scenes in rough seas with storms and lightning, this film does it and does it good!  The lighting is well done in either daylight or night scenes, and the sound quality is on par with some of the better productions of it’s rivals. 

The Guardian is not an awful film,  it just didn’t have me jumping in my seat, which is what I was hoping for.  The kids loved it and that’s a good thing.  It’s nice to be able to show them a movie where saving lives is heroic, instead of the usual war movie, where they depict taking lives as being glamourous and studly. 

This is one of those movies, where I couldn’t see recommending it, but also wouldn’t advise that you steer clear from it, either.  If you’ve seen this movie, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

The Guardian on DVD here

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Cage Cameos In Grindhouse

Posted by Jay Medina on February 20, 2007

Nicolas Cage told SCI FI Wire he camps it up in a cameo appearance as Fu Manchu in a faux movie trailer that is part of Grindhouse, the homage to exploitation movies directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Cage is one of many high-profile actors who will appear in the movie.

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Weaver Avatar Casting Confirmed

Posted by Jay Medina on February 17, 2007

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed the re-teaming of Aliens star Sigourney Weaver with her director, James Cameron, in the helmer’s upcoming SF epic film Avatar, which was first reported on Ain’t It Cool News.

Full story here

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Eckhart Is Knight’s Dent

Posted by Jay Medina on February 17, 2007

Aaron Eckhart is up for the role of Harvey Dent/Two Face in The Dark Knight, the much-anticipated sequel to Batman Begins. Dent is the district attorney of Gotham City who becomes the insane crime boss known as Two Face when half of his face is disfigured by acid.

Full story here

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Deschanel Stars In Tin Man

Posted by Jay Medina on February 17, 2007

Zooey Deschanel (Elf) has been cast as the lead in Tin Man, SCI FI Channel’s upcoming six-hour miniseries that reimagines L. Frank Baum’s classic fantasy book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, SCI FI announced. The miniseries is slated to begin production in March in Vancouver, Canada, and will premiere in December.

Full story here

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Movie Trailers – Shooter

Posted by Jay Medina on January 26, 2007

Check out this movie trailer for the new Mark Wahlberg movie, Shooter.  This looks like a modern day JFK scenario where a sniper is set up as a patsy for a Presidential assasination.  This has a great cast and good action.  It’s from the director of Training Day and Tears of the Sun.

Apple – Trailers – Shooter

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The 20 Most Hyped Movies of 2007

Posted by Jay Medina on January 25, 2007

Check out this article about the 20 most hyped movies of 2007.  This might be a huge year for blockbuster movies!

Big in 2007 – Moviefone

 Which movie are you most anxious to see in 2007?  Comment on here and let us know.

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New Danny Boyle SF Action Trailer

Posted by Jay Medina on January 19, 2007

The new trailer for Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, an SF action movie, has gone live on SCI FI Pulse. Set 50 years in the future, Sunshine centers on a team of astronauts sent on a mission to study and revive Earth’s dying sun.

Read the entire article and see the trailer

 Danny Boyle got my attention with 28 Days Later.  Although I haven’t seen Trainspotting, I think this guy has real promise.  Now that he’s getting into Sci Fi action movies, I can’t wait to see how good it’ll be.  Did you see Trainspotting?  What did you think?  How about 28 Days Later?

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‘I Am Legend’ Chopper Flies Over NYC

Posted by Jay Medina on January 18, 2007

 NEW YORK (AP) – Vampires are coming to take a bite out of the Big Apple – in the latest Will Smith thriller about a mutant virus gone awry.A Black Hawk helicopter flew over the city Wednesday for tests shots for the Warner Bros. film “I Am Legend.” Filming is expected to run until mid-March.Smith plays the last human survivor in what is left of the city after a terrible virus is unleashed around the world, publicist Carol McConnaughey said.

The movie will feature a scene in which a Black Hawk lands on a barge near a Manhattan pier, according to the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, which promotes and licenses moviemaking in the city.

The film is due in theaters in December.

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