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Gerard Butler portrays Leonidas, the king of Sparta who, along with an army of 300 soldiers, battles to prevent the large Persian army from invading Greece in 480 B.C. in the epic action-drama '300.'
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Lavishly photographed, with enough English pomp and circumstance to make Merchant and Ivory jealous, the film chronicles the battle to end the bloody British slave trade by focusing on the leader of that struggle, Wilberforce.
The film benefits from a strong supporting cast, with Sewell, Fox and a host of others bringing to life the factions that battle over ending an industry that fattened many an English purse.
Especially poignant: Finney playing a pastor who used his torment at having been a slave-ship captain in an earlier life to help him write the hymn "Amazing Grace," a rallying cry for the abolitionists.
While the straightforward telling of the historical struggle creates interest, Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower) takes the film beyond historical curiosity by creating a sometimes flawed, always emotional and personally troubled man who achieved something many called impossible.
All through a simple and heartfelt belief that slavery was a sin that a Christian nation couldn't allow.
With a pace that never sags and a texture that pulls you in, this is a film that leaves you with a grace all its own.
Rated PG for thematic material involving slavery, and some mild language. [RF, RA]THE ULTIMATE GIFT (PG) HH
STARRING: DREW FULLER, JAMES GARNER, ABIGAIL BRESLIN, BRIAN DENNEHY
RUNNING TIME: 114 MIN.
When Jason Stevens' grandfather dies, he doesn't immediately leave his spoiled relation a huge inheritance.
Instead, he sends him on a quest of sorts, trying to teach him everything from humility to a work ethic and true love of family.
While Fuller doesn't overly impress, the film is able to overcome a somewhat formulaic plot to deliver an emotional message that feels real.
One special bright spot: Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine") as a little girl who helps Stevens restore love and caring to his life.
Rated PG for thematic elements, some violence and language. [M]