Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (US, NZ 2013)

Part two of the quest by Bilbo and his party of dwarfs to pinch a jewel from within the lair of the well spoken aristocratic dragon Smaug, the adventure continues. Most definitely a controversial trilogy as we move through this second part which really should probably be the final chapter but as we all know it isn't. So do the liberties taken by Jackson and co work or do they stand out as easy filler?

I really found myself enjoying the film as it starts out in Bree on a dark rainy night, a warm glow emanates from the dirty tavern windows and street lanterns. As the film continues we meet up with new characters and finally into the Mirkwood forest where we get the first bit of real action. I gotta be honest I loved the giant spider sequence in this film, I think its safe to say this whole idea is probably a popular phobia for many folk and its really creepy. The spiders are visually excellent and damn scary to boot! no kids innocence spared here! I really like how we hear the arachnids talking to each other when Bilbo puts on the ring, even though they did all sound like Gollum.

Up to this point I'm loving the film, the travelling band of heroes are a quirky fun bunch, Mirkwood forest is nicely realised and perfectly atmospheric, the spiders made my skin crawl and Beorn the skin-changer was...hmmm OK I guess, bit Twilight-ish. Everything falls apart in a reasonably big way when Legolas and the newly created Tauriel come along and save the group. Within seconds the film goes from being a really decent sensible fantasy to dumbed down superhero crapola just like the original trilogy, in places. Yes I dislike the way Legolas is portrayed in these films, as if he's some kind of invincible super God-like character who can do virtually anything such as defy gravity.

I've heard a lot about the infamous barrel sequence in this film and I was curious to see what it was all about. To my absolute horror it was...horrendous! OK Bilbo and the dwarfs need to escape from the Wood Elf dungeons...even though I'm not entirely sure why they imprisoned our plucky team anyway truth be told. But hey I know, lets have the most ludicrous ridiculous videogame-like sequence we can think of just to pander to the lowest common denominator...sheesh!! The whole idea starts off OK but it descends into such drivel I had to rewatch just to get my head around it. Yeah I know we had the same kind of nonsense in the first trilogy and first Hobbit film, but I hated that kind of stuff then too. It totally takes me out of the film every time watching Legolas leap around like Spider-Man using his bow and arrow like some kind of automatic weapon, hate every second of it.

To make matters worse Jackson felt the need to create a new character who is basically a female opposite to Legolas, this makes me think he's pandering to the female audience just to cover all the bases. Oh and that includes the annoying romance sub plot of course. Yes this female Elf is a solid character who is well portrayed within this universe but why the need to go down 'The Matrix' route (again!) making her into another death defying, gravity defying, never misses her target super Elf overlord of justice. Why must we have this type of nonsense in an otherwise brilliant film!!

To reach the Lonely Mountain this crack team of height restricted heroes must cross a large lake, enter this new trilogies Aragorn in the form of Bard. What I don't quite get is Bard takes them to the lake town of Esgaroth, but why? they wanted to cross the lake, why go to all that trouble to smuggle them into the town? just for weapons?! Anyway the town does look really authentic, I really liked how it has this twisted kooky Monkey Island type of appearance plus you really feel the chill in the air watching. Excellent visuals and atmosphere for this old creaky wooden fishing port, and kudos on the casting of Stephen Fry as the Town Major or Master.

Finally we reach the pinnacle of the film, the part most have been waiting for, the dragon Smaug. OK I'm gonna be brutally honest here as I always am, I wasn't blown away by this giant reveal. I liked the look of the mountain interior with its hord of dwarf treasure, I think they got the scale of the dragon perfectly and I think Smaug looks good...but not great. I've been more impressed with other dragon films to be truthful, I think the dragons in 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' and 'Reign of Fire' were far superior to this frankly, and the dragon in 'Dragonslayer' still impresses. The CGI just isn't quite as believable for me, it still has that shiny plastic thing going on, but I do like the Dungeons & Dragons look n feel about him. He's not suppose to be a dark savage blood curdling monster, more of a softer traditional fantasy beast, like a unicorn (I think). The other factor is that Smaug talks, I know Tolkien envisioned this but watching this dragons jaws move to speech doesn't really work. Its a creature, a beast, so its gonna be hard to make its mouth work in sync with its speech because its not a human mouth. Would it have worked if Smaug 'thought' his dialog and Bilbo was able to hear his thoughts? risky change but I reckon Smaug would have come across a bit more convincing.

Again the casting of Cumberbatch didn't thrill me as much as the masses, I still feel this guy is merely flavour of the month (for some reason I can't quite pin down). Yes he does a solid job as the voice of Smaug but anyone could of done it really, any actor with a well spoken British accent. Off the top of my head Tim Curry for one. Lets not forget his voice will have been lowered in tone to give that deep booming frequency, so I don't quite understand the overall fever pitch with this.

Despite me picking on bits I did actually enjoy this film a lot more than the first. In fact I enjoyed it a lot more than most of the original trilogy, although much of this is down to natural progression with special effects and much less hokey-ass CGI laden action sequences. Its another visual spectacle for sure with stunning locations, perfect continuity (I like my continuity) and solid acting. I still won't defend the decision to pad out the book into three films as we all know that is purely about the money, another shitsquillion to milk out of it. That being said this film doesn't feel too elongated or forced, its not dull and its not daft either, but I don't feel entirely comfortable with the newly created bits. You know the film is stalling for time but at least Jackson has managed to do it quite well, I was surprised.


Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (UK, 1988)

Gilliam must be the king of fantasy films, his filmography lists some true cults and this tale of tall stories is no exception. What I find fascinating about this film is the fact its actually based on a real person and what he actually claimed. An 18th Century German nobleman who spoke or boasted of his outrageous adventures whilst at war against the Ottoman Empire. Whether of not this chap was possibly a bit tipsy at time I don't know but its quite amazing to think this man made himself into a bit of a legend through these tall tales.

The films plot starts off in the present day of the film and then briefly as a short story told by Munchausen himself. It then leads back into the present day of the film again and carries on as an adventure, presumably the same adventures adapted from the Barons own stories. In short we follow the Baron and a little girl as he goes off to find his close friends so he can then return to this unnamed European city and save them from the attacking Turks.

Surreal isn't the word...or maybe it is, as this film is right out there with Gilliam's other bizarre fantasy worlds. Of course the film is based on the novels that recount the tall tales of the real man in question so I'm guessing that what we see is actually the real Munchausen's imagination and Gilliam has just recreated it, with some artistic license I'm sure. What is accurate to the source material I can't say as I have not read the books.

So the main plot point is for Munchausen to find his four compadres who are scattered around in this bizarre universe. We follow the Baron as he travels to the Moon of all places, to the South China sea, the belly of a huge sea monster (familiar story line for fairytales) and deep below the Earth in the realm of the Roman God Vulcan. A heavily character driven movie with each little venture being hosted by new outlandish people. I think most viewers may have forget that Robin Williams was in this film as the headless King of the Moon...and oh my is he annoying, yep its that old Williams routine that makes you wanna slap him. I guess he suits the crazy character but it just feels like the Robin Williams show.

Another performance that felt a little weird was Oliver Reed as the God Vulcan. I'm not entirely sure Reed even knows he's in a film here, he plays the character as an oafish quick tempered stereotypical British northerner, whilst also coming across like a simpleton and a bit drunk, so that's just an aging Reed then. A young Uma Thurman portrays his wife Venus which stuns you because she was actually pretty back then, doesn't say much though.

There are so many characters in this film I couldn't possibly go through them all. Pryce is the perfect choice as the snivelling city official, Eric Idle and Jack Purvis take to this extreme fantasy like a duck to water with all their previous fantasy film/Gilliam experience but its John Neville who steals the show as the Baron. For a start the makeup is brilliant and really captures those typical aristocratic features, they really nail the real life caricature of Munchausen. I also loved that old fashioned gentlemanly lordly performance by Neville, both dashing and flamboyant in his beautiful period attire, sword at his side, elegant facial hair and perfectly pompous wig. One could say a dignified pirate appearance. Its a bit odd how his age keeps changing from time to time depending on the specific escapade they are on but every time Neville looks terrific. It really is quite incredible how he actually resembles some real historic images from the era.

The film can't help but look a bit dated these days I'm afraid, for its time the film was top of its game but these days the cracks show. Not to say that dampens your enjoyment of the film, if anything it heightens it and adds to the delightful charm of all you see. There is something about Gilliam films, that unique look that has carried through with other projects like 'Time Bandits' and 'Jabberwocky', its almost crappy looking, obvious effects yet somehow it just works. This film has it all with the added bonus of some lovely period costumes and that wonderful theatre set opening.

I must admit the film doesn't quite hold up the wonder it used to have for me when I was but a mere sprog. The fantasy element is excellent and feels more like a traditional fairytale or dream more than anything, not so much like an Indy type adventure. I think some bits work and some don't, the whole Moon part feels a bit stupid in all honesty and I didn't like Reed's God, but getting swallowed by the sea monster is the quintessential time-honoured fantasy fodder that I liked. There are many golden classic images and sequences in this film that have stood the test of time. That along with Neville's grand performance and some sumptuous sets and costumes you can see why this film was nominated for so many awards.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Green Street 3: Never Back Down (UK, 2013)

Was there need for a third film in this dreary franchise? the bigger question is how on earth they got Scott Adkins in it?! I guess if you like violent rumbles between large groups of moronic football 'fans' then you might get a kick outta this. Of course I use the word fans in a very loose sense as we all know its about footie hooligans.

The plot is merely a replay of the first two films, more excuses for cockney battles in the street. But wait! no its not! its actually about one young hooligan getting killed and his brother comes back to London to sort it out. When I say sort it out...I mean find the culprits and beat the shit outta them with his hooligan buddies (his firm), so yes actually it is the same.

So as Adkins is the main character here you may have already guessed that martial arts will be involved...and you'd be right. Although its not a full on martial arts fest as you'd expect from Adkins, its still mainly a large old school ruck but with the added extra of the odd martial arts moves. Clearly they have tried to incorporate both styles and alter the plot, we find out that the world of hoodlum fighting has become more organised and turned into an underground tournament with no rules. It appears the thugs have upgraded their skills with more precision squabbling, actually turning away from booze and becoming lean fit fighting machines.

This is all well and good but it kinda removes the whole gritty footie fan battling aspect that made the very first film reasonably fun to watch (aside from seeing Wood getting his head kicked in). Now you simply have yet another fight tournament flick with semi muscular blokes doing martial arts, the perfect vehicle for Adkins and obviously tailored around him. Its good they have tried to come up with a fresh idea here but ruins the premise of the franchise and secondly, why make a third film anyway only to change it completely?

I still can't quite fathom out why Adkins agreed to make this when its clear to see its a low budget go nowhere flick. This film doesn't even have a wiki page so far! that's how unknown it is! The main problem with the film aside from poor acting and hokey cockney accents is the fact the fights aren't even that good, too obvious basically, you can see the punches and kicks aren't connecting. Had the fights actually looked good then you could forgive all the rest as fighting is the name of the game bottom line. Unfortunately its all pretty bad truth be told, a football hooligan film without any actual footie hooliganism, not that I'm condoning footie hooliganism of course but that's what you expect here dagnabbit.


Green Street 2: Stand Your Ground (UK/US, 2009)

Pretty fun sequel that only has one character from the previous film as its based around him. Not sure why him but obviously the actor was the only guy happy to come back for another crack with this.

Put straight this is simply an excuse for a fight every few minutes, almost every scene ends up with someone getting beaten up or guys standing off against each other menacingly. Not much plot wise happens for most of the film accept a crooked prison warden dealing drugs amongst the bad eggs, but then out of the blue near the end the film turns into 'Mean Machine' and we get a goodie prisoner v baddie prisoner footie match.

Can't really say the match looks good as you don't see much footie from the bad camera work and the fact the prisoners just usual, what a surprise huh. At the end it all wraps up nicely in a bow and really does seem rather pointless despite being an OK film for fighting.

Main issue with the film apart from the lack of proper plot is the fact it looks like the prison is in the US! prisoners wear orange jumpsuits and outside they roam around without shirts on showing their big muscles and tattoo's despite the English weather. The weather in fact appears to be very hot and sunny all the time and the prison seems to be set in a very sandy dusty almost desert like area, obviously trying for a slick desolate feel with the visuals...or something. Odd seeing as its suppose to be set in an English prison, I thought it was in the US at first and was confused.

You enjoy watching unfit middle aged blokes kicking the hell out of each other in meaningless scraps? watch on. Look out for Vernon Wells as the prison chief.


Green Street (UK/US, 2005)

Along the same kinda lines as 'The Football Factory' but nowhere near as gritty and in your face, this film suffers from a slight case of Hollywood glitz.

Not just because Elijah Wood is in it, that is one reason of course. But the violence just seems more coordinated and setup, whilst the many British actors in the film all have rather hokey cockney accents which are rather forced, some not all.

The film centres around West Ham United Firm 'GSE: Green Street Elite' although the real firm is called 'ICF: Inner City Firm' and follows the guys around as they go to matches and plan on fights with rival firms. Nothing much different from other 'firm' flicks but the added plot of Yankee Wood who slowly fits in against his UK based sisters wishes and grows to enjoy the lifestyle.

No one really that well known in the film accept Wood who is TOTALLY out of place in this type of flick but I guess that's the idea right. Only thing is you simply can't see Wood ever getting tough enough to do what he does in the film, never in a month of Sundays.

Good entertainment but using a lot of artistic license and second best to 'The Football Factory' and 'The Firm'...if your into these types of films.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

El Gringo (2012)

One of many straight to DVD films that Scott Adkins has churned out in between the odd big movie. This film seems to have gone down a few routes here, firstly its clearly a nod to classic Clint Eastwood 'the man with no name' films, there is a strong Mexican style spaghetti western vibe here. Secondly its clearly a Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez wannabe flick, the editing and general style is obvious. Thirdly it could be seen as a film project by Adkins to try and prove he's up and ready for a role in the next violent Tarantino/Rodriguez flick, cast me! cast me!. And lastly it might just be a simple homage to all of the above, but I doubt that, riding on the coattails probably.

In all honesty its not a bad film but its not good either. We spend the first ten minutes of the film watching Adkins trying to get a drink of water from all the local oddballs in town. Then we spend another ten minutes or so watching this really annoying young girl trying to steal Adkins bag of cash. This happens not once but numerous times, its annoying, time wasting, for Christ's sake just look after your flippin' bag dude!.

Most of the film is forgettable except for one gun battle sequence slap bang in the middle. I can't deny I was impressed with this, it was awesome! spectacular in its bloody bullets to the head violence. A touch of kickboxing from Adkins but mainly a rollicking gun fest as he pops bullets in a stream of bad guys whilst running around tight squalid alleyways. It is a real adrenaline rush I kid you not, lots of bloody squibs and absurdity as he takes out blokes with a shotgun that are well out of range I'm sure. The whole sequence plays out like a Call of Duty online game actually, visually it has that frantic wham-bam feel plus Adkins goes around picking up weapons from guys he's just taken out, one after another.

The other COD inspiration if you ask me is that all the bad guys have this gangland warpaint on their faces in the form of a simple skull motif. Their faces are white with black around the eyes and cheekbones giving that COD: Ghosts appearance. The main bad guy looks the best of course, he also looks like a young Raul Julia too.

It is a bit of a shameful artistic and stylistic rip off from various other sources but it still manages to hold together. Adkins isn't the best actor on the block by any means but he's a good action star as we know and his fights get more impressive with each film. The finale to this film is pretty damn awful I won't lie, it builds up to something massive but ends up a wet squib, very disappointing. Other than that I recommend watching for the gun battle midway through, its worth it, just try not to have an epileptic fit with all the flashy quickfire cuts and editing.


Guns, Girls and Gambling (2012)

First thing that hit me here...this is a rip off of '3000 Miles to Graceland' surely, it even stars Christian Slater who does yet more Elvis mincing. On top of that guess what...its another crime heist, but this leans more towards the comedic side admittedly.

Ah Mr Tarantino you have a lot to answer for, so many films now use your jumbled up crime plot route its ridiculous, and here we go again. A group of Elvis impersonators are after a native Indian relic, so are some crooked cops, a cowboy hitman, a female assassin and a crime kingpin called 'The Rancher'. They all think Slater has it but he doesn't, no one knows who has it and naturally they're all trying to kill each other left right n centre.

This film follows the trail of so many other heist films these days. It starts off randomly with sub plots and main plots that link into each other later. Characters are introduced like a videogame with their names popping up on screen alongside hokey graphics which looks so tacky now. All the characters are cliched unoriginal and mundane...'The Rancher' who looks like 'Boss Hog', 'The Cowboy' 'The Chief' 'The Indian' 'The Blonde' all speak for themselves really, oh geez!. Then of course you have the four Elvis impersonators, an Asian, a black midget, a homosexual and Gary Oldman who clearly can't do Elvis impressions.

The film pretty much consists of all these characters running around shooting at each other and beating up Slater. The comedy attempts to be quirky and witty with freeze frame moments, flashbacks, bits of dialog on screen and a lot of silly hammy action and one liners. I must admit some of the gun action is quite good, there is some blood and gore at times which does make the film feel better than it should...or more exciting anyway. Had this been a PG-13 it would have been pretty tiresome, just like the Red franchise. Obviously they included a hot blonde female assassin in a figure hugging black catsuit to attract more viewers...OK OK it worked.

As with a lot of these straight to DVD crime heist flicks its an ensemble cast which is impressive, clearly everyone thought they might be in the next big crime comedy. Powers Boothe, Oldman, Jeff Fahey, Chris Kattan (where has he been?!), Tony Cox and Slater, OK so a few big names and a few B-movie stars. And if you haven't already guessed, as with many of these types of films, there are plenty of twists and turns as the ending looms. I would say its keeps you on your toes but you know damn well there will be twists, its so predictable, you know the main bad guys and the main good guys will have plot twists.

We've seen all this stuff before time and time again, Hollywood is running out of plot ideas quicker than you can say Hollywood is running out of plot ideas. The only thing here which is remotely interesting are the Elvis impersonators, but even that has been done before in '3000 Miles to Graceland' and much better. There definitely needed to be more of Kattan as 'gay Elvis'.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Homefront (2013)

Jason Statham, fighting, guns, errr...more fighting, yet not so much profanity. Predictable action packed romp you say? oh no don't be silly you silly filmgoer you, oh wait.

So Statham is the new guy in a small redneck town who is just trying to live a quiet life after his rambunctious time as a DEA undercover agent. After his little girl beats up some fat kid Statham finds himself in trouble with the fat kids hick parents, doesn't help that he floors the kids dad. So the fat kids trailer trash mum goes to see her brother who just happens to be the local drug dealer bad guy which as you can guess equals action time for Statham and his big hairy muscles. Believe it or not this is actually based on a novel amazingly.

Yep this is most definitely your bog standard action thriller that could of easily starred anyone of the classic big name action heroes. Same could be said for the bad guy role, anyone could of played it, it makes no difference. The story plods along at the usual cliched rate with the usual things you know are bound to happen. Lots of face to face confrontations where Statham shows the locals who's boss, sneaky breaking and entering from the bad guys, intimidation and dirty low down tricks to unnerve our hero and eventually a big shoot out and kidnapping of Statham's little girl.

Despite the outrageously corny plot and corny hard man act by Statham I must admit to enjoying the film and its vicious fights. When Jay is approached by these big lunkheads you know the outcome from the start, but you gotta admire the choreography involved bringing these rucks to life. The sound effects are blisteringly realistic as Statham chins these guys whilst smashing them against hard objects. I gotta say I liked it and found myself inadvertently cheering Jay on.

The bad guys are weak though, the bikers are pretty gritty and the local hick muscle is nicely intimidating but Franco as the main bad guy is weak. He doesn't actually do anything for the entire film accept scowl and look unwashed. He never fights Statham! all he does is pinch the little girls kitten (yet doesn't harm it) and then pinch the little girl (yet doesn't harm her). He mainly watches from the sidelines keeping out of the way, which is odd, he's not even remotely intimidating. The other weird thing is he actually shows signs of concern for what he's doing, as if he doesn't really wanna go down this route but is forced too. Its like he's not really that bad a guy, he just wants to deal his drugs in peace.

So despite being a total JCVD-type vehicle I found this film entertaining in a typically ruthless tooth loosening kinda way. We've seen it all before of course, Statham isn't really the perfect likeable hero lets be honest, he growls too much and isn't pretty. Franco is rather limp here and Ryder's character seems pointless but the violence is top notch and the film has a good steamy atmosphere. What I still find amusing is everything that happens in this film is all because of the little girl slapping that fat kid in the face at school. That's some chain of events right there!.


Delivery Man (2013)

So this is a remake of a Canadian comedy that was only made in 2011! not only that but both films are directed by the same man, shouldn't go wrong then really should it. Never seen or heard of the original film 'Starbuck' so I can't compare but in all honesty the idea of Vince Vaughn being the father of 533 kids does raise a smirk. The problem being they all wanna know him but he doesn't wanna get involved with them. Just looking at the films poster you could easily think this will be another typical crass Vaughn comedy.

Surprise surprise it isn't! the story is actually played with a lot of heart and semi realism giving the emotional moments more gravitas. Lets not get carried away here this is no hardcore drama, but scenes where Vaughn's character follows some of his now grown up children to see what they get up too are nicely done. Its these sequences which do shine and make the film a bit more interesting, seeing Vaughn pretend to be a guardian angel type and assist his teen offspring in times of need. Naturally these teens are a nice rounded PC bunch as you would expect but I can't deny watching him take care of the handicapped boy does tug at the old heart strings.

Up to that point nothing really happens and after that point it all goes down hill. The story does feel somewhat boxed in to me, nothing much to do, you get a whiff of this by the fact that a lot of the film is merely watching Vaughn perform random secret acts of kindness for some members of his new large family. I was starting to wonder if this was all we were gonna see.

Of course it isn't but what we get is kinda...patchy. Vaughn's character has money issues and is basically a bit of a loser in this film. He owes money to some thugs which isn't really expanded much, some of his new adopted kids come and go through out the film as does his pregnant wife and his real family background felt a little underused. I'm sure they could of used his father (cheap Ben Kingsley knock off) and their family butcher store to better use with the thugs.

So on one hand we do get a semi sensible slightly emotional real life rom-com type affair with Vaughn trying some real acting. But on the other hand the film is rather dull, hard pressed for ideas, not overly funny, not overly weepy and the finale is so predictable. While I appreciate Vaughn trying to be a genuine actor for once it just doesn't feel right, he's not bad as such but the guy needs to make zany comedies, its his forte. All the time here I'm just waiting for him to whip out some wise cracks and be funny, instead we get a more grown up approach.

One of those films that feels pointless really, neither one thing or the other and maybe miscasting Vaughn in the main role. The whole story and its characters also felt a bit undeveloped and I found myself not really caring about any of them. It starts off quite well but quickly becomes a random thrown together collage of sentimental Hallmark moments which all builds up to the totally predictable happy ending.


Friday, 21 March 2014

Born to Race (2011)

I only found out about this film after a fellow reviewer reviewed it. Did this even get a cinematic release? anyway I liked the poster and it seemed to centre around import racers so that's me in. Yep as you may have guessed after what I just typed, I'm a Jap car fan, so be weary that I will most definitely be biased in my review of the automobiles on display here (broad grin).

OK so the plot...well lets just skip this shall we, I think we all know very well this type of film is not gonna have a deep plot. No one goes to see a film about boy racers expecting a solid story line, they go to see sweet super saloons melting tarmac. But if you really must know, a young tearaway teen who just happens to own a super turbo charged Subaru Impreza WRX STi, goes to live with his divorced dad because his mum can't handle his dangerous driving antics. He must content with a new school, new bullies, new temptations and his poor relationship with his father. So naturally he ends up getting into more trouble racing and causing much friction, but at the end of the day he overcomes all adversities with an all round happy ending. Yep its the standard 'Karate Kid' plot with cars.

OK I won't linger on the story much but the one thing that always makes me laugh with these car racer flicks is the fact the characters have easy access to these super cars. In the Fast n Furious franchise there is literately a never ending stream of them, here the main character is 17 years old and still goes to school!. How the hell can he afford to run a Subaru with no job??. The fact he's a whiz kid with mechanics helps of course because he can mod his own car but he still needs money to pay for equipment and parts. The other thing that kinda surprised me was the fact his high school has a high performance car modification class? and a fully equipped garage to host it? is this an American thing?. Oh and this class encourages pupils to take part in a highly dangerous drag racing competition?...wut?! do they need permission slips from their parents for this death ride?.

This leads me to the fact that the main character (a really sulky po-faced ugly little creep) is trying to get his life on track and stay away from dangerous driving. His father, mother and teachers are trying to help him, yet one teacher wants him to race in this competition. Doesn't that present a conflict of interests? surely getting the kid involved in a drag race competition will surely get him more involved in street racing or taking risks, the temptation will be high no?.

Moving on...the cars, the competition, the street does the job well. Yes believe it or not this film is solid in terms of actual racing just like the first and third Fast n Furious films. The visuals aren't quite as slick as said franchise, you can tell the cars aren't going at genuine speeds in some sequences and the actors aren't really driving. But the cars on show are lovely and they do get shown off well.

The finale competition is also quite well done, again expect the typical 'Karate Kid' scenario I'm afraid, no surprises here, you know who's gonna win. That aside the cars get good cam time and you get a really nice range of models. The film is basically import vs American muscle which I find amusing really. The race commentator refers to the Subaru as 'the little Subaru', just like they referred to the VW Beetle in the Herbie franchise, because its the underdog of the competition. Dear oh dear they have no clue.

Half of the American cars on show are old battle-axes in my opinion, they look like they just rolled off the set of Happy Days. Most of these cars look like bricks and probably handle like it too, all show and no go, noise before power, in my humble opinion any properly modded 370Z, Skyline or Evo would kill all of them quite easily...let alone the Subaru. There's even one race where the young protagonist must race a flippin' pickup truck! looks like some hick hay bale carrier, laughable.

So basically if you like fast cars, slutty bitchy cheerleader types, a good stereotypical asshole bully and a good stereotypical brooding hero...or if you just wanna see fast cars, then you will like this. I think its holds its own against the Fast n Furious brand because its more grounded and a little more believable, kinda. 'FnF' has lost its way recently and become a comicbook superhero flick in my eyes, its no longer about the cars.

Yes this story is unbelievably predictable, unbelievably cliched and generally piss poor, but it does what it sets out to do which is provide good racing action with a nice explosive final crash stunt at the end. No big stars and not many big flashy show off stunts or effects, its basic racing and it works pretty well.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Walking with Dinosaurs (2013)

The BBC hit Hollywood as they upgrade their popular 1999 miniseries to the silver screen. The original British series was a simple educational natural history documentary but it was all done with flashy CGI and animatronic puppets. Although the actual idea of a series all about dinosaurs wasn't completely original it was simply all about the movie style visuals which made it a hit. The concept includes quite a few series following on with the 'Walking with...' title.

I guess this brings us to the fundamental problem with this film, the decision to be sell outs and whore the idea out Hollywood style. There is nothing wrong with an educational film of course, but this isn't it. The whole idea was to be a slick documentary with insightful narration...usually based around a few dinosaurs and a section of their lives. This film takes that idea but ruins it with God awful stereotypical Hollywood blockbuster garbage of the hammiest order. You have a spectacular looking Cretaceous period complete with stunning live action locations and pixel perfect dinosaurs, but its all virtually destroyed by giving the dinosaurs inept conventional teenybopper type voices and adding horrible songs along the way.

I can't stress enough how good this film looks, it is truly beautiful and showcases our home planet in all its glory from dawn to dusk. The dinosaurs are all fantastically rendered in every frame and look...perfect!. Every scale, every feather, skin pigmentation, tooth, eye, posture, walk, stance, growl, roar, squeak, swoop etc...its all created with awesome detail. So much so its hard to think it could be wrong in any way but I'm sure in years to come new discoveries will arise.

Its just such a monumental shame they crowbarred in these stupid cheesy voices to obviously appeal to the kids. I say crowbarred because it feels like it was an after thought, the dino's mouths/lips don't move with the voice work (a proper realistic approach) so it looks like they are thinking everything. Plus they all seem to roar/squawk/growl/whine in real time over the voice work which is odd. A dino will say something like 'hello' but you'll still hear the realistic dinosaur growl too, its like the powers that be couldn't decide what to do. Wouldn't be too bad if the voices were any good but they're so dumb and cliched, you know how this goes. Also they use in-jokes about the future, the past and different periods, plus words like 'ninja'. Yeah I know I'm being really picky but it just feels ridiculous and totally pulls you out of the film or the moment.

The story is of course the age old tale about the life of a young dino who falls in love with another girl dino, their herd migrates across the land, they encounter danger from predators, get separated, must fight to survive and eventually find the herd again whilst fending off more nasty predators that should be Tyrannosaurus-Rex's but aren't. Its the usual coming of age story for a dinosaur which felt really really STALE, surely they could of come up with something else!. On top of that the main dino's have a sidekick along for the trip as you'd expect and all the usual kind of mishaps these types of films usually throw at you, I really shouldn't need to tell you more.

The other thing that kinda bewilders me is why do this, its been done in the TV series and they've covered quite a few periods, so why make a movie of the same thing?. There is no real new ground here, not much educational stuff for kids and of course the plot is dreadful so its a complete waste of time. I'm sure dinosaur obsessed kids will enjoy it for the spectacle but surely watching the TV show would be far more beneficial.

I really hate to be negative about this film as it has good intentions and has been created with a lot of love care and a tremendous eye for details. Personally I think the film would have worked a lot better just keeping Leguizamo narrating the story as the bird and cutting out all the other voices. Then you would have something much closer to the original source and it wouldn't come across as so infantile and corny.

The film is instantly obsolete because of the far superior TV series (despite its age) which offers more in depth information and a multitude of dinosaurs/mammals from all periods. This film gets plus points for visuals alone but overall it feels like a vacuous emotionless waste of everybody's time. Did they really make this just to show off their CGI dinosaurs? seems like it.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Billy Elliot (UK 2000)

The film that started it all...well for this particular franchise/story that is. One of many films that has become a great success and followed on with even greater success as a musical theatrical production. I think this film may have been one of the first to kick start that trend as it were, can't quite remember.

The tale of a humble miners son whose aspirations to become a male ballet dancer are frowned upon by his blue collar father and similar blue collar brother. Set in north eastern England around 1984-85 during the miners strikes against a powerful Thatcher led Conservative regime...errr I mean government. Billy is destined to become a miner like his older brother and father and is pretty much forced to take part in boxing at school by his father. His dad obviously wants more for his boy with the possibility of boxing but he knows the pit beckons.

On the other hand Billy discovers his love for dancing in ballet and wants to follow that path. Naturally this disgusts his strong proud father and gets him into trouble for disobeying. The whole plot could be the tale of many many northern born men within England at any point in time really. I have lived up north in the UK and it can indeed be a bit bleak with little job prospects for youngsters (no offence to the north).

The whole film is one big stereotype really, but a very real and truthful stereotype. Billy's tough working father is a typical northern bloke who likes beer boxing and a good plate of drippin' sandwiches. The area they live in is of course very working class with small terrace housing along steep hills and flatcaps everywhere and the general attitude of all the men is somewhat old fashioned. Boys partake in football rugby and boxing, girls do ballet and sewing, there is no middle ground...dare I say homophobia is lightly touched upon too.

I am exaggerating yes? well not really, as I said I've lived up north for many years and in some areas this is exactly what its like to this day. Thinking back to 1984-85 it would have been ten times worse!

The main crux of the story is Billy's struggle against 'the norm' and his fathers rules. He wants to be a ballet dancer, his school dance teacher thinks he's good enough but the money isn't there to fund it any further and his father hates the fact his boy might be a sissy. I think many people will be able to relate to this story as I said, but not just with dancing, with many areas. The scenes where Billy fights against his dad are naturally emotionally strong and really hooked me. There are many scenes where Billy gets into trouble by playing with his homosexual friend whom he doesn't understand is homosexual, not going to boxing lessons, going to ballet lessons and the intense strike sequences which are all terrifically acted out and really sucked me into the moment.

The moments of spontaneous dance from Billy are really cool to watch, I really found myself wanting to dance too, yeah maybe I can do what Billy does! Every character is wonderfully portrayed, Bell is a little bit too full of himself at times, a bit too eager to please by over acting perhaps but he's certainly fun to watch. The only character I thought was maybe a bit off was Billy's dad played by Gary Lewis. I really thought this character needed to be much harsher, stricter, he was tough but I didn't really fear him or his rule. I'm not saying there should have been nasty beatings but he just didn't sell the gruff northerner aspect to me despite the fact he's Scottish. I think the fact he is actually Scottish (and in the film it seems) means he doesn't have the real English northerner spirit inside him, unlike a real Geordie, Yorkshireman, Mackem etc...

The build up to the finale is quite moving and did pull on my heart strings I can't deny. Its all very cliche but it damn well works...damn it! The whole notion of anyone trying to simply make their father/mother proud by their good actions or dedication to something is a warm path to tread and guaranteed hanky dampener at the movies. Again many will be able to relate to the lovely final curtain sequence as Billy finally shows his family what he has achieved, it does put a lump in your throat and made me wish I could do the same with my own father.

I think you will get more out of this film being British and knowing of the north south divide and stereotypical views within the UK. I think if you live up north then you will certainly know the vibe this film gives off and will be able to relate and hopefully enjoy. It can be a feel good film but at the same time it can also be a slightly depressing film on various aspects...the miners strikes, being on the breadline, the grim north and being a youngster trying to break out of a situation. In the end the film is a joy to watch and should leave you upbeat. I hope I have not upset any of my northern countrymen, my dad is a Yorkshireman born n bred so I have experience.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990)

Or known as The Colombian Connection but that's way too cheesy for me, but cheese is the name of the game here folks. Yep McCoy is back and ready to take down some major drug kingpin scum. Funny thing is yet again despite the film title there isn't actually much Delta Force action. Again it all happens right at the end for the big finale, there's even less Delta Force action than in the first film! maybe they should of left out the Delta Force 2 bit in the title.

Its pretty straight forward stuff, the ever evil Billy Drago is the worlds most dangerous richest drug kingpin ever and he's flooding the US of A with lots of Lemsip...errr cocaine. So the DEA draft in Chuck Norris of Delta Force to basically save the South American country of San Carlos where Drago is based, save the USA from all the drugs coming in...just save the world in general gosh darn it!

Its all very predictable stuff that we've seen before (baring in mind its an old film of course), the step by step motions of any action flick really. The bad guys pull off some deals, kill some people, the good guys manage to capture the main boss, he gets away, he takes revenge on family members and this ignites Norris blah blah blah. It could easily be 'Lethal Weapon', well any of the first three really.

Norris plays the same character he plays in all of his action films, the same damn bloke! He doesn't swear, he doesn't speak that much, his one liners are a bit tame but we always manage to see him topless at some point. That said he does the job we expect him to and he does it reasonably well, but he's no Arnie, JCVD, Jaa or Gibson if you ask me. I think the problem is his films never really come across as adult action flicks, they lack that bloody punch to really get you excited, I guess his films feel like slightly adult episodes of the A-Team.

In all honesty this film is so cheesy and cliched it feels like an old Bond film, especially with all the henchmen at the end wearing the exact same outfits. Not military garb which would be fine, but casual looking clothes, as if they all shopped in the same store or Drago ordered a huge supply of his favourite design. Speaking of Drago he's the boss here as usual, we all know Drago isn't exactly the best actor around but its his face. That snarly, slimy, creepy vamp-like face along with his skill of being a really really sadistic evil bastard that you just wanna see get taken down. Here he plays the white suited, white fedora wearing drug dealer to a tee, right down to the greasy pony tail. We know that Norris could break his neck in a heartbeat but Drago doesn't play like that, he's a shifty, dirty, underhanded slimeball who hides behind his henchmen and various weapons, love it.

The films poster was always ice cool, Norris calmly cradling an Uzi, it looks smart, alas the film isn't as cool. Its very by the numbers, highly hokey and doesn't really look that special either. For the most part its rather bland with not too much happening, the finale is much better of course but nothing to write home about. As said at the start this is when we see some Delta Force unit action but its nothing amazing, lots of explosions. If it wasn't for the uber cool Drago this film would be a bit boring really...there I said it.


The Delta Force (1986)

There's a major hostage crisis going down, a small team of Arabian terrorists have taken control of a US airliner packed with innocent civilians. They wanna hurt the US of A, they will stop at nothing...what are you gonna do?? There's only one thing you can do, only one man you can call, not him, try again,! god damn it! Chuck! Chuck Norris! remember him? the bloke who never swears, the one with the stubble thing going on.

'sleep tight, sucker'

Now you'd think this was a stupid one man army type flick with hordes of bad guys getting mown down by the all American hero...and you'd be right. No seriously its actually a lot deeper than that believe it or not. There are many aspects of this film which have been based around real events which does give the film a serious biopic vibe, even though it is just an action flick.

The start of the film is set at the end of US Operation Eagle Claw as the Americans are evacuating Iran. But the main crux of the films plot is clearly based on the hostage crisis in 1985 of TWA flight 847. In fact the plot here is virtually an exact recreation of what happened, so it could almost be seen as a proper historical account, almost.

As for the actual rescue by Norris and his team, that is of course all make believe and where the film does enter the action man genre. To be honest everything up to that area is pretty intense really, the hijacking by a young tanned and impressive Robert Forster is really good and pretty authentic looking (can Forster really speak Lebanese?). You do actually feel uncomfortable watching the terrorists at work, you feel for the passengers and it does make you think about what you'd do in a similar situation. The scene where the bad guys start to single out all the Jews is admittedly an emotional moment, things get nasty and all you can think is where the hell is Chuck Norris.

Once you get past the airliner sections the film does loose that intensity, all the male/Jewish passengers have been locked away in a Beirut dungeon and its up to Delta Force to kick ass. This is where we get into Rambo territory as I'm sure you can guess. Its been slow coming but eventually you do get what you paid for if you paid for it that is, America's finest going head to head with...errr Robert Forster and his henchmen.

Sounds good right? well...meh. Yeah its OK but its not as awesome as I kinda expected, there are quite a lot of Delta Force soldiers so you don't really feel like you're watching an elite ops team, more like a platoon. The danger aspect is kinda lessened because there are so many of them. They are all driving through the town en route to the evil terrorists lair, no one sees or hears them apparently, despite them being a small armada. Then once the action does kick off we don't really see much of them, it all focuses on Norris running amok and taking everyone out just by growling at them (but not swearing! no swearing ever!!).

Can't deny its fun to watch the hairy one do his thing with that mullet whipping in the Middle Eastern wind but it does get hokey. The whole thing with him on the motorbike felt way too much like a kids superhero flick, plus do Delta Force use motorbikes with rocket launchers fixed on them?. The stunts are as you would expect from an 80's action flick...obvious. Obvious in the sense that you can seen the ramps vehicles go over, they explode for no reason, chases are clearly going at a snails pace and frequently hit stalls loaded with fruit and veg. Then there's my favourite, when about three or four bad guys appear and the good guy merely waves his gun randomly in the air at them and they all go down flailing like mad, classic stuff.

I love the films dated stereotypical approach to the Arabian bad guys though. All sweaty dirty looking with thick facial hair, wearing camouflaged army fatigues and head bands. Especially at the start of the film in the airport where one of the terrorists is trying to board, boy he doesn't look too suspicious with his mop of hair, scruffy beard and dripping in sweat!. Oh and the soundtrack is classic too, plays all the time, usually completely out of place and its entirely the wrong tone for film.

Its a bit of a Norris classic no doubt but the films vibe changes dramatically throughout. At first its quite a serious and strong drama based on reality, then things slowly change and we get the obligatory action man stuff but with silly A-Team-esque vehicle jiggery pokery. Overall it did feel a bit like a TV movie at times to me, the lack of blood and hard violence lets it down if you ask me. Not that violence, blood and swearing makes a film better but there are times in films like this when you just need it to get you going, up the anti.

Not the best special ops action flick I've seen mainly because you only get special ops action at the end and even then you only get to know about three of this large squad, and one of them is Norris. I guess it doesn't feel like a special ops film to me, just a rescue film.


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Well it had to happen at some point and I was always game for it, finally the two supernatural death dealers clash. The only thing that instantly springs to mind when writing about this is when will I see Michael Myers, Pinhead, Ash, Leatherface or Chucky join in on this horror icon mash?

You'd think the plot behind this would be silly but it actually kinda works in my opinion. Freddy seems unable to get it up anymore, he can't scare kids because everyone has forgotten about him. So he hatches a plan that involves raising Jason from the dead to bring terror back into kids lives hoping they will assume its him. Unfortunately for Freddy, Jason gets carried away and is killing way too many and spoiling Freddy's catch, thusly a fight ensues.

So yes just like 'AvP' this is merely an excuse to see two iconic characters fight, the only difference is this film sticks to its trusted formula and delivers plenty of carnage. Now I'm not saying this carnage is worthy of praise, lets be frank we've seen it all before, but at least you get what you expect with no beating around the bush.

Its all about the kills, Freddy does what he does best with his creepy dreamy imagery whilst Jason stomps around and hacks teenagers up. There isn't anything particularly ingenious or original going on here, the teen kills aren't exactly new and fresh and the adults running around trying to solve the issue do exactly the same thing they always do. I guess the fun part is seeing Jason upset Freddy by taking fresh kills away from him and causing tension between the two, inevitably this does result in small touches of dark humour which is cool.

Its definitely a much better looking flick than most of the previous incarnations, the productions values are clearly quite high as its all very glossy. My only concern was maybe a bit too glossy, could of done with a hint of grit or that classic low budget feel perhaps. For shame on the decision to use CGI blood spurts in a few places, that's not cool at all and a worrying modern trend. Also one or two moments in the heat of battle do become a bit too farcical for my liking, just loses its edge...not that it was overly scary in the first place of course.

End of the day if you're not a fan of gory slasher flicks or you don't follow them much then this isn't gonna change your mind. On the other hand if you're a fanboy or like me you simply like the two franchises then I think you'll like this a lot. Bottom line all this is really is fan service, but surprisingly its much better than you'd think.

Silly thing is both of these characters are basically invincible and can't be killed, you can do virtually anything to either of them and they will still come back. So in theory it can keep going forever which does make the whole premise kinda daft really, at no point was I ever thinking that one of them would actually win. We all know and accept this to a degree but it just makes the whole battle a bit pointless really, at least Jason didn't team up with the kids against Freddy, which it was slightly hinting towards near the end.

For lack of a better does exactly what it says on the tin, and that's deliver a tidal wave of stereotypical killings and setups but with the huge added bonus of seeing both Freddy and Jason slug it out. OK I admit it...its pretty much completely for the fanboys, but if you're a fanboy then get that hand cream ready cos its geekgasm time!


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Princess Bride (1987)

You can clearly see this is a Rob Reiner film in every sense. The whole production has that silly visual humour that most would associate with Mel Brooks...although not as strong. When the film came out it had moderate success and has since gone on to be become a bit of a cult, yet I'm not entirely sure why in all honesty.

Based on a novel of the same name the story is the quintessential fairytale fable. A young dashing hero who was thought to be dead must save his true love from an evil Prince in his castle. There are sidekicks, magicians, evil henchmen, knights, places of peril, and the odd oversized creatures.

The unique element in this rudimentary idea is the comedy factor, a combination of spoof and slapstick both verbally and visually. In short you could say this was an early live action version of the Shrek franchise but not as 'out there' with the fantasy. Every typical fairytale scenario has been slightly twisted and lampooned just enough to make it funny but not as an outright spoof. There is still a solid plot here despite the fact its predictable as hell. The other unique angle is the fact the whole film is being narrated by Columbo to Kevin Arnold in the real world, a story within a story, so you're never completely sure if things will pan out as you'd expect...(but they do).

Now while I can't deny the film is a nice gentle old fashioned type of yarn it is extremely basic and largely unimpressive visually. I realise its more of a character piece than effects extravaganza but there really isn't much to soak up fantasy wise. It doesn't help me especially because some locations they filmed at the start, and the castle, are not far from my folks so it didn't give me any sense of wonder. There are some nice locations most definitely but it all looks too real if you get me, not much like a fantasy realm.

The film works mainly because of the characters, well some of them. Elwes is the perfect well spoken Flynn-esque hero without a doubt, he has good comedic timing and spoofs the classical silver screen hero very well. He virtually plays this character again in that Mel Brooks Robin Hood film. Wright is the perfect blonde fairytale Princess, utterly stunning! Sarandon does the slimy evil Prince to a tee and for me the best of all was Wallace Shawn as the low down crafty 'Vizzini'. Such a shame that Shawn's character dies so early on as he's the best thing going on in the film laughs wise. There are various other famous names in here too but for me they felt forced. Peter Cook's silly clergyman lisp just fell flat on its face, Mel Smith's Albino dungeon keeper felt out of place and not particularly funny whilst Billy Crystal was clearly Billy Crystal in makeup and not in the slightest bit amusing.

Had this come out now I don't think it would do too well, or any better than it did back in 87. The whole idea has been done and drained by a certain green orge plus other animated flicks. Back in the day the idea of a spoof fantasy was a bit more original but even then it didn't fare that well and I'm not really surprised. I can see how this might not have appeared very enticing to cinema goers at the time.

There is little to no violence so its perfect for the younger viewer whilst adults can enjoy the soft satire. Even though this is the epitome of a true fairytale I can't really say its a rich magical experience because there isn't much of that going on. Its a pleasant cozy ride that will relax you and not put any pressure on the brain. A pure organic tale but also rather underwhelming.



Monday, 10 March 2014

Flesh+Blood (1985)

Pretty creepy title for a historical film and one that doesn't exactly mean much if you ask me, although there is plenty of both onscreen so...I prefer 'The Rose and the Sword' which was its alternative title for a time. The story is apparently left over script from the Verhoeven directed Dutch TV series 'Floris' so one could almost say its the movie adaptation of that show.

Gotta be honest I thought this was a fantasy film as this is the first time I've ever seen it, so yes I got it wrong again. This is actually a historical 15th Century Italian period set...errrm hack n slash film? rescue film?...errrr wait, coup d'├ętat film? black plague film?? oh geez. OK OK its a film which involves a lot of rape and pillage with the onset of the black plague and a bit of a rescue somewhere at the end...kinda.

The story revolves around a band of medieval mercs led by Rutger Hauer who were evicted from a city they had just helped siege. The owner of the city, and feudal Lord, promised them looting if they get his city back, but he lied. They get their own back by robbing the rich owner, generally killing his entourage and accidentally taking his sons bride to be. The mercs haul up inside a castle they overthrow and end up defending it from the Lord, his son and their troops.

So this being a Verhoeven film I'm sure you're expecting blood and guts...well as I said you get it. Its in no way as violent as other future films from the Dutch director but its most certainly much darker bleaker and more controversial. The main factors in this film which will shock are the out and out rape sequences of the young bride to be Jennifer Jason Leigh. The male members of the merc team take turns raping her in full view I kid you not, a most unsettling thing to watch I must admit. Not only this but the main character played by Hauer also rapes her but to soften the blow she pretends to enjoy it, this eventually leading to feelings for the character.

This opens up various quandaries for us the viewers as you don't know who you're suppose to be rooting for anymore. The city Lord is obviously untrustworthy because he betrayed the mercs in the first place. His son is also as ruthless as he is but he shows signs of devotion to Leigh's character, but surely Hauer's character is suppose to be the roguish dashing hero? well I guess not. He's certainly dashing in his elegant period set attire, much style and pomp in abundance with those blue eyes and blonde hair, but he kills, he rapes, he pillages and steals. It is indeed the Lords son and surprisingly the Lords honest respectable Commander that you end up getting behind, although it takes most of the film.

Throughout the film there are many slightly unsettling things that take place. One such seen is the birth of a baby to Hauer's character which died in the womb. He merely crams it into a small wooden barrel and they bury it without much thought or ceremony. Its a very harsh scene which is swept aside very quickly just as the characters do in the story. Another is the 'romantic' sequence between Leigh's bride and the Lords son. Only Verhoeven would think to set this kissing scene beneath the dangling rotting bodies of two hanged men. Yeah sure its in the countryside and very picturesque but wow! really? kinda odd.

The band of mercs are  a truly disgusting bunch, they have little worries and merely go around killing robbing drinking and raping. The band is made up of a few males including Bruno Kirby and Brion James plus a few women too, one of which has her young son alongside her watching it all. I suppose it is based around semi facts, I don't know but I'm sure back in this era many things happened that today would be seen as horrendous. But back then life was cheap, many people were extremely poor, didn't know any better and didn't live very long anyway, not that that's an excuse really but times were very different.

This film confused me really, it felt very grotesque in places but almost like a fun swashbuckler in others. The use of modern day profanity didn't seem accurate to me and while the high level of nudity is typically Verhoeven, it does add to the realism but also feels a bit too much at times. Also some of the cast like Kirby didn't quite look right in this era and that big siege tower seemed ridiculous. How on earth did they build something that big and mechanically impressive so fast?!

It all looks great visually and pretty realistic with some nice locations used. At the start Hauer looks badass with his rag bandanna and that sword he wields but alas his character doesn't retain that heroic badassery. Hauer's ragtag team of mercenaries repulse you and in the end you feel they get their comeuppance, including Hauer. The finale is worth the wait but don't expect too much. One thing is for sure, with all the visuals of nudity, plague and chopped up plague ridden dog meat, it will put off eating meat for awhile I reckon. Verhoeven knows how to grab your if you didn't already know.


Saturday, 8 March 2014

The 13th Warrior (1999)

Historical Vikings vs barbarians, hack n slash flick made by 'Die Hard' director John McTiernan? should be kick ass right? well sort of, it is a decent flick but its a bit messy and not overly as memorable as you'd think. Based on a Michael Crichton novel (which was all the rage back in the 90's) which involved the curious mix of a travelling exiled Arab poet who befriends and joins a small village of Norsemen (Vikings) and ends up fighting a tribe of barbarian cannibals that dress as bears because they believe they are bears.

The film isn't accurate of course, it is based on actual fact but has been hugely exaggerated and made more exciting for both the novel and film. The lead character Fadlan was a real Arabic traveller and he did go north and experience Viking life but all the battles with cannibals (based on the Beowulf folklore) is complete fantasy.

So the film has a touch of grounding in reality which makes it more interesting and urges you to learn more which is good, the film itself isn't too bad, compared to the novel I don't know but there isn't too much happening in the film other than time wasting dialog inter-spursted with pitched battles. The dialog is very wooden really and somewhat 'state the obvious' all the time, the film does feel a little rushed and choppy probably due to the problems whist being made and really the battles, which are the focal point, aren't all that good either.

The film is solid and is reasonably interesting but it just feels very underwhelming, as if there is a really really good kick ass film somewhere in there wanting to get out. Banderas looks the part of the Arab and the Viking cast also look good as does the cold looking muddy location work, but Sharif seems to have been stuck in there simply for big name status and to try and elevate the film to epic levels. He does pretty much nothing of importance and disappears very quickly.

The film does get slightly more silly as it progresses towards the end but all in all it just about does the job of keeping you entertained. The barbarian hordes the Vikings fend off are too unrealistic really I think, that's the problem, and of course most of them are all just sword fodder for the heroes so the usual thing. I think 'Pathfinder' does it better.


The Blood of Heroes (1989)

Bit of a forgotten Hauer cult classic this with your typical popular post apocalyptic world where only the strong survive. Haven't seen this in many many moons and it wasn't quite as cool as I remember it but still decent, the plot has now been copied over and over by many films since but as this was back in 89 it feels like its one of the first, almost.

An Aussie flick so you would be right in thinking there's a touch of 'Mad Max' in there but there's also a lot of classic barbarian type stuff and strong Roman Gladiator themes too, you wonder if Scott took inspiration perhaps. 'The Game' itself is kinda odd and simply revolves around sticking a dogs skull on a stick in the opponents half, like a touchdown really, whilst you batter your opponents half to death to protect yourself and your players. Dog skulls because they eat dogs in the future, why use them for this? who knows.

Of course there is more going on when you scratch the surface, literately. Deep underground (because the surface has been ravaged by war) there are affluent rich folk living in complete luxury that run a much bigger harder league of the game called 'The League'...imaginative huh. Down there the players are treated like real stars with wealth and fame but the risks are greater...well life threatening (duh!). The aim of many players is to get into this super league, of course good old Rutger has already played there and survived.

When you watch the game I did kinda get the feeling in reality it wouldn't last more than 5min or less but artistic license is in heavy use of course. The actual games aren't as violent as you'd think with minor blood and not much carnage, the film is quite tame really now but back in the day it was suppose to be pretty brutal.

Hauer is perfect for the role as the quiet brooding leader 'Sallow' and Delroy Lindo impresses in a surprise if slightly racially cliched role. Overall the whole team are all pretty good in all their stereotypical post apocalyptic attire along with manly battle scars. The Aussie outback also adds to the inhospitable atmosphere and really gives this adventure a nice bleak barren feel as you would expect.

Nice ending which isn't totally predictable...if you watch the uncut version, the US version was cut for some reason. Personally I prefer the film title 'Salute of the Jugger' as it offers a bit more mystery, what the hell is a jugger? dunno but it sounds kinda neat doesn't it.