Movie Review: “300: Rise of an Empire”

Starring
Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro, Lena Headey, Jack O’Connell
Director
Noam Murro

There is only one woman who doesn’t end up raped or murdered. The ones who are spared rape – presumably, anyway; for all we know, they were raped before we witness their deaths – are nearly all slaughtered while topless. Far be it from me to sound like a feminist, but there are parts of “300: Rise of an Empire” that are disturbing on a number of levels. Zack Snyder, who opted not to direct the follow-up to his 2006 smash “300” but co-wrote the screenplay, will likely argue that these were dark days, and heinous crimes were committed, and we will not debate either point. However, when all of the naked victims are ‘D’ cups, it sends a mixed message, to say the least.

The story takes place at the same time as “300” (give or take a few days) and takes a boatload of exposition to explain, as Athenian warrior Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) leads a small but tough group of men to battle against the invading Persian army. Much like his brother in arms King Leonidas, Themistocles and his battalion stun the Persians, and Themistocles even manages to kill Persian King Darius, who arrogantly attended the attack thinking he was untouchable. Unfortunately for Greece, Darius’ death opens the door for Darius’ ruthless naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green) to persuade heir to the throne Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) to resist his father’s death-bed plea for peace and to instead bury Greece. Why is Artemisia so bent on Greece’s destruction? She is Greek herself, and is seeking revenge for the injustices done to her and her family by Greek forces when she was a girl.

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Australia’s Hardys is Killing It at Every Price Point!

Hardys is one of the largest wine brands in the world. They’re so big, in fact, that each day more than two million glasses of Hardys wines are consumed worldwide. It’s no surprise, as they make a lot of wine from a variety of grapes in a broad array of styles, all sold at prices to accommodate just about any budget. I recently had the opportunity to taste a cross-section of their portfolio alongside their chief winemaker Paul Lapsley. He manages a team of 27 winemakers across their vast array of brands. Here’s a look at three of my favorite wines from the evening that, quite frankly, I think everyone should be drinking.

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The Hardys 2012 William Hardy Chardonnay was produced from fruit sourced in several different Australian regions; the bulk however comes from Padthaway (57.2 percent) and Riverland (30.1 percent). The fruit was picked at night under cooler conditions to help maximize freshness. Fermentation took place in oak, and the finished produce was aged in stainless steel with some additional oak treatment. This offering is 100 percent Chardonnay. This wine has a suggested retail price of $17. Aromas of pineapple fill the ebullient nose of this Chardonnay. Hints of crème fraiche appear on the palate where they balance juicy peach and orchard fruit flavors. Hints of citrus lead the lengthy finish, along with baker’s spice. This wine has a crisp, clean ending that begs you back to the glass for sip after sip. This is a Chardonnay that has a bit of appealing added oak complexity. However, those notes never overshadow the glorious fruit that shines through. This is a really delicious and appealing Chardonnay.

The Hardys 2012 Nottage Hill Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced in South Eastern Australia. The Nottage Hill wines have been part of the overall Hardys line since 1967. This is a wine that is widely available across the country and has a suggested retail price of $13; if you shop around you’re likely to find it for a couple of bucks less. The light red hue of this wine is exceptionally pretty in the glass. Red fruit aromas abound on the nose. Strawberry flavors dominate the palate and they’re underscored by bits of red cherry; a dollop of vanilla bean is present. Black tea, mushrooms and earth are all in abundance on the finish, which has above average length for the category. This wine will pair well will an extraordinarily wide array of foods. It’s hard to find good Pinot in this price range. This one is simply a knockout for the price.

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The Tintara McLaren Vale 2010 Shiraz was produced entirely from fruit sourced in the namesake region. Dating back to 1861, Tintara is one of Hardys’ oldest brands. The winery itself is located within McLaren Vale. This offering is 100 percent Shiraz. Different parcels of fruit were harvested, vinified and aged separately. Aging took place over 14 months in oak barriques. The separate lots were blended prior to bottling. This Shiraz, which is widely available, has a suggested retail price of $19; however it often sells for close to $15. Compote of dark fruit aromas fills the nose of this wine. Similar characteristics pick up on the palate where blackberry, raspberry and plum pudding spice rules the day. This is a hefty wine that is layered with layers of flavor. Coffee and chocolate characteristics lead the finish, which is long and lingering. This is a lovely example of Shiraz that is full bodied but not over the top. It’s a proportionate wine that works well on its own but excels when paired with substantial foods.

This group of wines from the overall Hardys umbrella shows off a wide swatch of what is possible in Australia. First, they are each proportionate, varietally correct offerings that will all pair nicely with appropriate food groupings. From a value standpoint they are each fairly priced and provide more than solid quality in their respective categories. The Pinot Noir however sets itself apart. More than being a good value, it’s an absolutely outstanding one. It’s quite simply one of the very best Pinot Noirs in the ever popular $10 to $15 price bracket. There are tons of Pinot selections in this category; nevertheless precious few of them can match the quality of the Hardys Nottage Hill Pinot Noir. If you’re looking to buy a case or two as a house wine to keep on hand for everyday drinking, this Pinot is an absolutely perfect choice. At $13 or less a bottle you’re practically stealing it. Hardys has a host of other wines besides this trio. They are proportionate wines that are true to their varietal. Don’t hesitate to buy anything with their name on it, for it’s a sign of quality and value.

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Product Review: Roots of Fight Tyson ’88 Hoodie

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In the last 30 years, there hasn’t been a heavyweight boxer as good as Mike Tyson. Arguably the greatest heavyweight of all-time, the 5-10 Tyson, with just a 71-inch reach, routinely knocked out opponents that were five inches taller and a quarter of his own bodyweight heavier.

After his 38-second knockout win over Lou Savarese in 2000, Tyson uttered potentially the greatest quote in boxing history. “My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable, and I’m just ferocious.”

And it wasn’t just about his success in the ring. The brand of Mike Tyson has experienced the crossover appeal that no other boxer, outside of Muhammad Ali, can lay claim to.

If you grew up in the ’80s or early ’90s, you spent hours engaging the likes of Soda Popinski and Mr. Sandman in the Nintendo tour de force “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.” At his peak, “Kid Dynamite” was one of the most popular athletes in the world and still is to this day, thanks to his one-man show, “The Undisputed Truth.”

Even eight years after his final bout, Tyson’s legacy as a fighter and as a brand are both as impregnable as ever.

Roots of Fight pays tribute to the rich history of martial arts, boxing and MMA, and connects the history with images of iconic fighters like Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Helio Gracie and Bruce Lee in its clothing collection.

And we aren’t talking Affliction, Silver Star or any other weird fighting apparel that gives a nod to the strip mall jiu-jitsu black belt ethos that permeates the modern fight landscape.

Roots of Fight is all substance, no flash and dash. If Affliction is for the twenty-somethings who still haven’t learned humility is where it’s at, Roots of Fight is the quiet man whose presence alone controls the room.

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Interview with Kickboxer Wayne Barrett on the middleweight title and rise of GLORY

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GLORY is the premiere kickboxing organization in the world. And even if you aren’t familiar with it yet, Spike TV is betting it will take off. Similar to the way Spike popularized the UFC with an unprecedented TV deal in 2005, the network is betting on the crossover appeal of kickboxing, featuring GLORY kickboxing events on a monthly basis.

“We really like this sport,” said Jon Slusser, Spike’s senior Vice President of Sports. “If you talk to people who like MMA, they love kickboxing. With the growth of MMA and the growth of combat sports over the last decade, a reintroduction of the sport is what we think will give this sport the boost it needs to really climb into the spotlight,” says Slusser.

Middleweight Wayne Barrett finds himself in the perfect place at the perfect time. On the mat is where his opponents have found themselves since the former Golden Gloves boxing champ turned pro.

As an amateur, Barrett compiled a 19-1 kickboxing and Muay Thai record. Barrett’s GLORY debut came in a September when he knocked out Robby Plotkin in the first round. In his second GLORY fight, he toyed with and then knocked out previously undefeated Mike Lemaire in round two. In a total of 23 fights, he has amassed 18 knockouts.

“I’ve never seen anything moving so fast,” said Barrett about his career coinciding with the rise of GLORY as an organization.

“Everything behind the scenes is being done so well, that at this time next year we will be really relevant. GLORY has done their homework and is doing it the right way, not trying to do it all overnight. As a result, I think you’ll see a lot of crossover; guys leaving MMA for kickboxing. There’s going to be even more money in this sport because there already is. Like Joe’s check for $150,000 for winning the middleweight tournament. That is the most money a kickboxer has ever made in the United States.”

The “Joe” Barrett referred to is fellow middleweight Joe Schilling, who back in September won the four-man, one-night GLORY Middleweight Tournament and a purse of $150,000.

Saturday November 23rd on Spike TV, Barrett faces Schilling at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the inaugural GLORY Middleweight Championship.

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Esporão wines show that Portugal offers a lot more than Port

When Portugal comes to mind most of us think of dessert wines, Port specifically. This is quite natural as Ports of all styles are the bread and butter of the Portuguese wine industry. However, as wine lovers are starting to learn, there are lots of terrific table wines coming from Portugal as well. There are white wines, some of them quite well known, but what impresses me are the reds, most often produced as blends. In many cases the grapes are indigenous to Portugal and while some of them are planted in other regions, many are not. Portugal has been very good about holding on to and promoting their local grapes, the ones that really flourish there. That lends itself to a unique drinking experience. You can taste things in Portuguese wines that simply aren’t available elsewhere, which prosper in their microclimates. Here’s a look at two reds and a Rosé from two wineries that are both part of Esporão, a sustainable winery located in the Alentejo region of Portugal.

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First up is the Herdade do Esporão 2011 Defesa Rosé. This wine was produced from grapes sourced in the Alentejo region of Portugal. It blends together two varietals — Syrah and Aragonés– in equal parts. The fruit was destemmed and then crushed. Skin contact and maceration was minimal. Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Approximately 120,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $14.99. A striking strawberry hue looks beautiful as you pour this into a glass. The nose of this Rosé brings to mind a bowl of fresh red fruits. Strawberry, cherry and subtle bits of raspberry are all present throughout the palate, along with a wisp of white pepper. Black cherry flavors emerge on the finish. This wine is crisp and remarkably refreshing. The alcohol here is nice and modest, making it easier to enjoy that second or third glass with a leisurely meal.

The Quinta Dos Murcas 2010 Assobio was produced using grapes sourced within the Douro appellation. This wine blends together Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. The fruit was hand harvested and then underwent bunch selection as well as being destemmed. Fermentation took place in a temperature-controlled environment. Approximately 20 percent of the blended wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak for 6 months. Roughly 140,000 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $12.99. Black plum and vanilla bean aromas emerge from the nose here. The palate is studded with dark, brooding fruits such as blueberry, black raspberry and continued plum. A treasure trove of spice characteristics are in evidence as well, adding depth and complexity. Sour black fruit flavors emerge on the finish which has nice length; they are joined by minerals and bits of espresso. This wine really shines if you decant it for an hour or so. Enjoy it with hard cheeses and roasted meats.

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Finally, we have the Quinta dos Murcas 2009 Reserva, which was produced from fruit sourced within the Douro. This offering blends together Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Miúda, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca and Sousão. After being hand-picked, sorted, destemmed and crushed, fermentation took place in temperature-controlled granite lagares. The wine was aged for 12 months in a combination of French and American oak. Just about 30,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $39.99. Plum and red raspberry aromas emerge from the exceptional nose of this 2009 blend. Purple, black and red fruits are interspersed on a deeply layered palate that is both dense with flavor and diverse. There is a depth and elegance from the first sip through the last note that makes this wine a knockout. Minerals, earth, spices and bits of dusty chocolate emerge on the finish, which has excellent length. Everything you’d want in a red blend in this price point is present in droves: structure, acidity, balance, grace and length. It’s delicious now, particularly after a couple of hours in a decanter, but it will improve over the next 5 years and drink well for at least five after that. It’s certainly suitable for pouring on a holiday or special occasion.

These three wines from Portugal’s Esporão are well made, delicious and provide solid quality for the respective price points. And while these wines are diverse, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Portugal has to offer in table wines. It’s easy to see from tasting any of these that blending is a forte. The variety of indigenous grapes is huge and plays a starring role in shaping the myriad blends that are made. Portuguese wines are making inroads in the U.S. market. Look on your shelf for these and other exciting wines from the old-world country that is new for a lot of American wine drinkers, particularly when it comes to table wines.

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