15 Under-Appreciated Films You Need To Watch – Part 2

October 30, 2011

Previously On StuartReviewsStuff…

I suggested you watch The Day the Earth Caught Fire, All About Eve, The Emperor’s New Groove, Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel.

Now for the next five…

6. Quatermass 2 (1957)

Before Doctor Who, before Star Wars, before Star Trek, before any of the most famous science fiction series’ we know of today, there was Quatermass.

Made into both films and TV series, it was a science fiction show based around Professor Bernard Quatermass.

The chances are that if you’ve heard of it, you’re most likely thinking about either The Quatermass Experiment, which was about an astronaut who had been infected by alien spores while on a mission, or Quatermass & The Pit, which was about an alien capsule being found buried deep under London.

Both of these films/TV series are good (except for the ultra boring remake starring David Tennant in the early 2000s) and are probably under-appreciated in their own right, but I want to focus on the second film.

Quatermass 2 (aka  Enemy from Outer Space) is pure 50s Sci-Fi B Movie stuff centred around alien infiltration taking place in an industrial plant in the UK. And for some reason, Quatermass is played by an American. It’s also got a very rare thing in it – Sid James playing a serious role (which is reason enough to watch it).

If any of you reading this have been to Disneyworld, and in particular the retro Sci Fi Diner in MGM Studios, then this is the type of film they play the trailers for in a loop in that restaurant.

Quality stuff.

7. Rope (1948)

Another James Stewart film and the first of my Alfred Hitchcock choices too.

When people think of Hitchcock, it’s always the same ‘big’ films like Psycho, Vertigo, The Birds,  Rear Window, North by Northwest etc. Rope just isn’t mentioned in the same breath.

And yet it should be.

In truth it’s one of his most highly rated films on imdb.

Based on a play and – crucially – filmed in the style of a play with as few cuts as possible (the 90 minute film is divided into nine continuous 10 minute sections, going as long as each reel of film allowed) Rope is the story of two cock-sure young men in New York who have murdered one of their friends with a rope, stuffed his corpse into a box in the living room and then invited his parents and girlfriend round for a dinner party. The audacity of it all!

They also invite round their former house master (Stewart) from school because of his philosophical ideals about ‘The Art of Murder’ and the belief that Murder should be the privilege of the elite. It’s not that they want him to find out about it, but they just want the thrill of getting him to talk about his beliefs at the party to the victim’s parents while he lies dead in a box mere feet away.

But as the evening unfolds, Stewart begins to suspect what has gone on and it all comes to a head.

While the film skims over the absolutely blatant homosexual subtext between not only the two murderers but with them and Stewart (it was made in 1948 after all) that doesn’t present as much of a problem.

The beauty of Rope is many layered. It’s got the acting, the direction and the plot to match. Everyone in it is better than good and the style of filming is terrific. Like many Hitchcock films it also raises the tension level to bursting point before a rather sudden ending.

An absolutely tremendous film and one that sits comfortably in my Top 10 of all time.

8. The Iron Giant (1999)

Sometimes because a film is animated people assume it’s just for kids. People are wrong.

Obviously some animation is just for kids, but the idea that animation as a whole is the domain of the child is seriously flawed. After all, everyone likes Toy Story don’t they?

Much like The Emperor’s New Groove, The Iron Giant was made at a time when ‘traditional’ animation styles were going out of fashion to make way for the CGI animation style of the aforementioned Toy Story. And if that wasn’t reason enough for it to fly under people’s radars it wasn’t even made by Disney, but rather by Warner Brothers.

Alright, you know by now that I have a thing for old films, science fiction and superhero films, so a movie like this is always going to get my approval, but there’s so much to approve of.

Set in the 1950s, it’s about a giant iron robot that has fallen from outer-space and landed near a small American town. The robot befriends a local boy (in a non seedy way I should add) but the US Army comes in to try and capture and destroy him.

It’s a delightful movie, that is both heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measures. The end of the film would bring a tear to a glass eye, so it would.

As you can see from the trailer it’s also animated in a rather unique way.

Well worth a watch.

9. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

If you’ve seen the remake of this film from a few years ago, ignore it. Compared to this, it was absolutely terrible.

This is another often overlooked gem of a film that a surprising amount of people from my generation haven’t even heard of, let alone seen.

It’s about how people can be controlled to do whatever someone wants by using certain trigger words (and in this case a pack of cards). Obviously, this means murder.

I think I’ve summed that up quite concisely.

Other things to look out for in this film include Frank Sinatra as the hero and Angela ‘Even in the 1960s I looked old, so when exactly was I young’ Lansbury as a vile villain.

10. The Butterfly Effect (2004)

A lot of the films I’ve put forward are actually pretty highly rated, so my initial idea to go with the theme of ‘Underrated and Under-appreciated’ really didn’t hold much water.

But then there’s the Butterfly Effect. And yes, I know what you’re thinking – it’s another film from the same genre. Well that’s just what you’re going to get from me. I’m not going to include films like Bride & Prejudice or The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.

The point I’m trying to make here is that for once I’m including a film that is actually considered to be poor by many rather than a great film that is often overlooked. One review in a US Newspaper simply said “It’s a terrible life. And a terrible movie”. Harsh.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to go and see this film, but ended up being dragged there by my mate. And I thank him for that, because it was great.

Based around the popular principle of chaos theory of the same name, the Butterfly Effect stars Ashton Kutcher as a guy who keeps going back into his own past to change his future.

The main point of consternation in this film was the ending. How the director wanted the film to end was deemed too grim and so a happier ending was filmed for the cinematic release but removed from the DVD. That’s a shame because I actually preferred the cinematic ending.

The film has spawned a couple of sequels but I haven’t bothered to watch them as they are bound to be shit. The principle of the film will work once in my opinion,

So enjoy this genuinely underrated movie.

On The Next Stuart Reviews Stuff…

Five more to go.

15 Under-Appreciated Films You Need To Watch – Part One

October 26, 2011

Earlier this year I did an article about underrated and/or under-appreciated games which seemed to go down quite well and attract a fair amount of people to the blog. Even now it still gets a certain amount hits per day.

So, influenced by a poll on a football forum to try and find the best film of all time, I’ve decided to do a similar article about movies.

A lot of these films are actually rated quite highly on sites like IMDB, but based on that poll and just from speaking to who I know, it seems some of them just aren’t all that well-known in general.

So, in no particular order, here are the first five…

1. The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)

I came across this film by chance when searching for The Day The Earth Stood Still on LoveFilm. The plot looked interesting, so I gave it a chance and ended up really enjoying it.

When the Earth’s weather starts to take a funny turn and strange meteorological events occur throughout the world, a journalist for the Daily Express does some digging (and since it was filmed 36 years before the Death of Diana it’s not about that) only to discover that by chance both the US and USSR set off test nuclear devices at exactly the same time on opposite sides of the globe. By doing that, the world has been knocked off its axis and is spinning out of control towards the Sun.

The interesting thing about this film is that it’s told from the point of view of Fleet Street; nobody in this film is a hero who is going to sacrifice himself to save humanity. Instead, it’s about how the news is initially covered up, reported and then addressed as the Earth begins to wilt under the heat and freak weather.

It also has a human element to it. While a modern-day telling of this story would no doubt focus on 3D effects and millions of dollars worth of CGI, the fate of the Earth is almost secondary to the relationships between the journalists covering it, and their families. While most modern films would focus on the fact that martial law has been declared and food and water become rationed, this instead explores how that makes the average person feel.

It’s a good story that is both acted and directed well, and also finishes on a cliffhanger, which is a brave thing to do in my opinion.

2. All About Eve (1950)

From time to time my social circle likes to start up ‘Film Night’ where each week one of us selects a film for everyone else to watch that they probably haven’t seen.

One such film that I brought to the table was All About Eve.

Initially I could sense that everyone was inwardly groaning because I’d brought ‘Another Old Film’ to the table rather than been as adventurous as to present The Goonies or Back to the Future. They clearly weren’t expecting much from it.

Until they actually watched it…

At the end, every one of them said “I’m surprised, but I really enjoyed that”.

So what is All About Eve all about? Well, to quote Wikipedia, ‘the film stars Bette Davis  as Margo Channing, a highly regarded but ageing Broadwaystar.Anne Baxter plays Eve Harrington, a willingly helpful young fan who insinuates herself into Channing’s life, ultimately threatening Channing’s career and her personal relationships’.

I can’t speak highly enough about this film; everything about it from the casting and acting (both leading actresses are perfect for the roles they play) to the slow burning storyline are perfect. And I’m not alone in thinking that – this film actually received 14 Oscar Nominations, which is a record never surpassed (only equalled by Titanic). And yet it’s not a particularly well known film by my generation or probably the generation before me. When people talk about classic films it’s always The Godfather, The Shawshank Redemption, Star Wars etc.

I suspect that the age of the film (it’s 61 years old) will have something to do with it. There are no effects, no masterful direction and a dated style of music that you stopped getting in films during the 60s, but ultimately I don’t think any of that should detract from what is a very special movie.

Even the most sceptical of my friends considered it a terrific watch, so I urge you to give it a chance as well.

I should point out that this is not the original theatrical trailer, but one done by a fan on YouTube. It’s very well done and he deserves a lot of credit for it.

3. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

Speaking of old films, this is one of the oldest films in my collection at an astonishing 72 years old. It’s also the first of three films on this list to star one of my favourite actors of all time – James Stewart.

Made before Stewart fought in World War 2, this is almost a different actor to the one that starred more famously in films like Vertigo, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He certainly looks younger, and in my opinion acts younger as well. It’s actually considered to be the film that really launched his career.

As is the case with most trailers made back then, the one below does absolutely nothing to tell you what the film is about, so to be concise about it, Stewart’s character is the traditional American ‘Good Old Boy’ – a scout leader from back in the days before they were considered creepy. He is invited to replace the recently deceased Senator of his mid-Western state in political office in Washington. But he’s picked because the politicians in charge believe he’ll be an easily manipulated stooge who will help them pass through a selection of self-serving bills that would usually prove unpopular.

When Stewart realises he’s been had for a mug it’s almost too late, as he’s ended up being framed for all the dodgy dealings that have been going on. The only way he can save himself is to prevent a motion being passed in the Senate to have him removed, and the only way to do that is to stage a filibuster (i.e. if he keeps talking without stopping then nobody else can have their say without his permission).

This turns out to be one of the finest scenes in a movie I’ve ever seen. The acting is tremendous and it is most likely the reason why Stewart became such a popular actor.

There’s no doubt the film has dated elements to it, some bad (some of the direction/music/acting is a bit old school) but some brilliant (there’s a scene you just won’t believe where some hired goons deliberately crash their car into another car being driven by children).

Much like all About Eve, this is a film that my friends were very sceptical about, but ended up really enjoying.

4. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

When people are asked to rate their favourite Disney films, the chances are the list will include the likes of Snow White, The Lion King, Pinocchio, Aladdin, The Jungle Book, Toy Story etc etc etc

You can see the films that Disney themselves rate highly by what gets marketed in the Theme Parks.

One film that won’t be on many lists and has probably been forgotten about completely over in Orlando is The Emperor’s New Groove, an oddly animated film about an arrogant young emperor who gets turned into a wise-cracking Llama.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that this is a film of the standard of such classics as The Lion King and Toy Story, because it’s not, but it’s still very good. Unusually for a Disney film, it doesn’t have any songs and I laughed all the way through it.

It’s witty, it’s smart and has a unique look. It also has good voice acting as well, with David Spade and John Goodman playing the lead roles.

And yet despite all of this I think I must be one of the few people who actually remembers it.

5. Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009)

I’m sure anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m a fan of Doctor Who, and so it shouldn’t surprise you that a film with a name like that would be on my list.

I would certainly say though that this film is incredibly under-appreciated because I don’t think it got any press at all. I stumbled across it by accident when looking at a list of films made by BBC Films (which is a sign of quality if ever there was one).

One of the things that surprised me about the film was the cast. I really didn’t think I’d enjoy a film starring the guy off the IT Crowd and Anna ‘I’ve starred in more crappy comedy movies than Leslie Nielson’ Faris, but I did…I really did.

The plot is incredibly clever, flows, makes sense (even for people who probably don’t understand this type of thing like my mum) and is funny. It’s also got a great soundtrack to it as well.

The sad thing for Anna Faris is that this is probably her finest ever film role, one in which she’s not playing a clown or taking part in the most crude humour imaginable. Why is that sad? Because nobody seems to know about it, yet Scary Movie 2 made millions world-wide.

Coming Soon….

Five down, ten to go. Come back for more James Stewart, more Old Films, another animation and a TV movie made purely for ITV.

Doctor Who – The Evil of the Daleks Review (or ‘The Original Bungle Was Scary’)

October 17, 2011

So I was away on holiday last week, hence the lack of updates. It also means I’m slightly behind on my reviews.

Having said that, the next story on the list – The Evil of the Daleks – took me a fair amount of time to watch.

This Dalek is clearly breaking the fourth wall. He’s giving us a knowing look as if to say “If this guy thinks we’re going to leave this place unscathed he’s ‘avin a giraffe”‘

Evil of the Daleks is often rated among the top 10 stories of all time whenever there’s a Doctor Who poll. This is something I struggle with generally, as I don’t think a large enough proportion of the people who vote in these polls will either have seen it when it was on (or repeated, which was unique for the time) or seen a reconstruction.

So why is this story rated so highly, and is it as good as people suggest?

Doctor Who – The Evil of the Daleks Review: What’s This One About?

Following directly on from the Faceless Ones, the Doctor & Jamie go looking for the TARDIS, which has been stolen.

It happens to be in the possession of Edward Waterfield, a Victorian Antique salesman who is actually from Victorian Times and has been brought to the 1960s with Dalek time technology in an elaborate plan to capture the two time travellers.

Once the action moves to a Victorian Manor – owned by rich eccentric Theodore Maxtible – in the mid 1800s, the Daleks tell the Doctor they have his TARDIS and in exchange for it, they want him to run a test on Jamie to establish the ‘Human Factor’, which the Daleks blame all their defeats on. They feel that if they have the ‘Human Factor’ implanted in them, then they will become more powerful, while the Doctor believes it might improve the Daleks for the better.

The test is that Jamie must rescue Victoria Waterfield (Edward’s daughter) from the Daleks, overcoming a variety of obstacles (including a mute Turkish wrestler complete with stereotypical Fez) in the process.

Once he’s done that, the Daleks blow up the house (much to the chagrin of Maxtible, who has been nefariously helping the Daleks in exchange for the secret of Alchemy) and the action moves to Scaro. When they get there, the Doctor gets to meet the Emperor Dalek for the first time, and is informed that by doing the test to establish the Human Factor (which, – when given to the Daleks –  turns them into nicer, child-like beings who question orders), what he’s really done is help them establish what the Dalek Factor is, and that he must spread the Dalek Factor through time to establish them as the true force of the universe.

As you’ve probably guessed, this doesn’t happen, and by exposing more Daleks to the Human Factor, the Doctor sets off a civil war that supposedly signals the end of the Daleks for good.

Edward Waterfield – Monkey

As you also probably know, Victoria joins the TARDIS crew at the end after her father was killed saving the Doctor.

Thoughts – So Why Is It So Popular?

The first thing to say is that Evil of the Daleks is undoubtedly a good story, but I don’t think it deserves the reputation it has garnered over the years.

I think what makes it so popular is the idea of it. Before I’d watched the reconstruction of it or listened to the BBC Audio CD I’d heard about some of the stuff it contained and thought it sounded amazing. It ticks a lot of the boxes that people would tick to come up with a ‘cool’ Doctor Who story.

  • Daleks in a Victorian House
  • A return to Skaro
  • ‘Good’ Daleks who play with the Doctor
  • The Doctor shoving a Dalek off a cliff
  • The Emperor Dalek
  • A Scary-looking guy with a crazy beard (Maxtible)
  • A New Companion
  • The Idea that it’s the ‘Final End’ of the Daleks
  • Jamie fighting a Turkish Wrestler

It all sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

But Is It Really That Good?

Keith Perry – The World’s Oldest Twentysomething

In truth it’s not as good as it sounds, and a lot of that has to do with the length of the story.

The first part is less relevant to the rest of the story than the first part of the Mind Robber was (and that was written as an afterthought) and just has the Doctor & Jamie asking a bunch of different people if they know where the TARDIS is.

Then probably twice as long as is needed is spent in the Victorian House. This is compounded by a fair amount of time devoted to a character – Arthur Terrell – who is pretty much irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Terrell is the suitor of Maxtible’s daughter Ruth and is being controlled mentally by the Daleks. So he has mood swings where he tells Windsor Davies (not playing himself for once, I should add) to do nasty things then forgets he ever told him to do it in the first place, and he also has fallouts with a variety of people from the Doctor and Jamie all the way through to Molly the Maid.

But nothing ever really comes of it. The Doctor realises he’s being controlled and instructs Ruth to take him as far away from the Manor as possible. That was it.

There are other issues as well.

The Daleks don’t really do anything until episode 6 other than come in and out of a cupboard and issue general threats, while Jamie’s test takes up the plot of half of episode three, all of episode four and most of episode five.

Naturally I’m aware that a story like this was originally intended to be watched once a week over the course of a couple of months, but still, it would have been better if it was slightly shorter.

The Positives

Again, I should emphasise that I do like the story despite it’s flaws. I just feel that when people put it up on a pedestal like they have done, you look for flaws more than you otherwise might.

There are plenty of positives about the story.

On the whole, the general plot is good, and the acting is of a high standard, most notable the wonderfully named Marius Goring’s portrayal of Maxtible. To me, he embodies the sort of Dickensian Victorian character and acts it well. He also does humorous/scary job of acting possessed in Episode 7.

When they finally come to the fore, the Daleks are also entertaining, and there is just something awesome about the Dalek Emperor. I can only imagine how cool it would have been for viewers to see the King of All The Daleks for the first time. He did of course come back again in

Much like the waste of money that is the Edinburgh Tram system, heads should roll on Skaro when someone finds out they could have bought a set of scales in 1966

Parting of the Ways, but seeing as he was voiced to sound exactly like Nicholas Briggs (funny that, eh?) it wasn’t as good.

And naturally, since it’s a BBC production set in Victorian times, the sets and costumes are of a higher standard than usual.

If this had been the end of the Daleks, it would have been a logical and fitting way for them to depart the series. I’m undecided whether it’s a good or bad thing that this isn’t their final appearance…

Random Observations

  • Throughout the story, the phrase ‘The Power of the Daleks’ keeps cropping up. That would have been a better name for the story. Oh…
  • The idea that Maxtible and Waterfield managed to create a Time Machine using hundreds of mirrors is so fantastically Victorian in its nature that it’s a terrific addition to the story.
  • How exactly did the Daleks come by publicity photos of the Doctor & Jamie to give to Waterfield? And more to the point, why don’t they also have publicity photos of Ben & Polly? How could they know that the two of them decided to stay on Earth mere hours earlier?
  • Why did the Doctor not just ask the Commandant of Gatwick Airport for help finding the TARDIS?
  • The basis of the whole Dalek plan seems to depend upon Jamie fancying Victoria Waterfield.
  • The Dalek that appears at the end of the first episode seems to have a very strange accent. “Who eh ewe” it asks.
  • Speaking of that Dalek, this is something about Dalek stories that really bugs me. The story is called ‘Evil of the Daleks’, and therefore it’s not going to be a surprise that the Daleks are in it. So why is a Dalek appearing a cliffhanger? This happens in The Daleks Invasion of Earth, The Chase, Evil of the Daleks, Day of the Daleks, Planet of the Daleks (which is the most ridiculous of all), Genesis of the Daleks and Destiny of the Daleks. It’s so stupid.
  • In his narration on the audio CD of the story, Frazer Hines describes Perry (Geoffrey Colville) as a man in his twenties. He’s the oldest looking 20-something in the world in that case.
  • This is probably something that we could understand slightly better if the story existed, but how does the TARDIS get about? It starts off in the yard of Waterfield’s shop but then moves from there to Maxtible’s house (who moved it?) and from there, despite the cupboard not being big enough to fit the TARDIS, it gets to Skaro. Then at the end of Episode 6 the TARDIS is on display in the Dalek control room, yet by Episode 7 it’s made its way to a plateau on the outskirts of the Dalek City. Confusing stuff.
  • Why are the Daleks so obsessed with Victoria’s weight?
  • One thing I love about this story is the music.
  • One thing I don’t love about this story is the way half the Daleks sound like Zippy. Sadly we’re stuck with that for the long haul as Roy Skelton is one of the lead Dalek Voice Artists from here until the end of the ‘Classic’ Series. Peter Hawkins – the true voice of the Daleks – makes his final appearance in this story, and will only appear again as the voice of the Cybermen in the next series.
  • But here’s an interesting fact for you – Peter Hawkins was actually the first voice of Zippy – while John Leeson (most famous for voicing K-9) was the original – and incredibly scary – Bungle. See the attached video.
  • One thing you will gleam from watching that video is that the Peter Hawkins managed to make Zippy sound nothing like the Daleks, in the same way that he made the Cybermen sound nothing like either of them. So why is it that Roy Skelton and Nick Briggs make every voice they do sound the same?
  • If I had a choice of the episode I’d like to survive from this story, it would probably be episode 6.

Doctor Who – The Evil of the Daleks Review: Final Thoughts

I feel that this review is almost a bit too negative about what is a classic Doctor Who story. While it’s true to say that people have put it up on a pedestal without probably having seen it, the fact is that the reasons for doing so – which I have detailed above – are relevant. It does have all that going for it.

The problem is that despite all of these iconic moments, it is probably two episodes too long and could have made a first class five-part story.

As it is, it’s a good story and one that I’d recommend, but in my view it’s not one of the all time greats, despite what others may opine.

As You’ll See in this video, Bungle is just scary. He looks like he would maul you as soon as look at you.

Catchy tune though.

Film Review: Warrior (Or ‘This Is Why Wrestling Is Pre-Determined)

October 8, 2011

I’m a fan of the Rocky films.

I’m also a fan of Professional Wrestling.

I’m not all that much interested in MMA.

“How can you like wrestling but not MMA? Wrestling is fake!!”, I hear you say(and have heard people say intermittently since 1991).

Well, the film Warrior is the perfect example of why that is.

What’s it About?

Two long-separated brothers take different paths to enter a 16 man, two-night MMA elimination tournament and inevitably face off in the final. One brother (Tom Hardy) is an emotionally damaged ex-marine while the other (Joel Edgerton) is a seemingly over the hill former UFC fighter who has been living for the past few years as a school teacher in suburbia, but faces bankruptcy because he’s had to pay out a lot of money to pay for his daughter’s heart operation (and that’s why the NHS is a better system).

Both men have problems with their alcoholic-in-recovery father (Nick Nolte) who also happens to be a good MMA trainer.

Thoughts – This Is Why Wrestling is Pre-Determined

So why is Warrior the perfect example of why I like the pre-determined sport of wrestling as opposed to the ‘real’ sport of MMA?

The answer is simple – MMA could never be as exciting as this film makes out in a million years. The reason wrestling is the way it is, is because by pre-determining what happens in the ring – the winners, the losers, the match lengths, who faces who etc – you can in theory produce the most entertaining spectacle possible (I say ‘in theory’ because the WWE seems intent on disproving that notion most of the time these days). In the days before wrestling was pre-determined, wrestlers would just grapple on the mat for hours on end. Where’s the entertainment in that?

MMA is a bit different if course, in that the fights can either be wildly entertaining with two men going at it like hammer-and-tongs (not like that you smutty people) or it can be very dull with two men lying on top of each other barely moving (again…steady!).

But by not fixing the outcomes, the opportunity to tell a brilliant story like Warrior goes out of the window. I would pay my ‘hard-earned cash’ to see a tournament pan out the way it did in the film, with each fight finishing in the most perfect way imaginable and three matches (the two semi finals and the final itself) being so perfectly set up that you couldn’t book it any better, but because it’s not pre-determined you’d be leaving it completely up to chance to get those storybook matches.

It’s the same reason that proper boxing is nowhere near as entertaining as the Rocky films make out.

And that’s why when it’s done well, pro wrestling is the more enthralling watch.

The Fighting

All the storytelling and perfect scenarios in the world would count for nothing if the film didn’t deliver in terms of the actual fights that go on, but thankfully it delivers in abundance. The fights look very hard hitting and completely believable, the actors they’ve got playing the fighters absolutely look the part (and yet it’s interesting that the relatively ‘slight’ wrestler Kurt Angle looks like a m0nster in his role as the Russian fighter ‘Koba’) and crucially the direction of the fights is top notch.

Even though it was a film and even though the results of every match bar the final were known beforehand (for which you can blame the trailer of the film which gives away what the final was) the fights still managed to draw you in and make you believe in what was happening. I defy anyone not to cheer internally when Brendan Connolly wins the matches leading up to the final.

As  a side note, I’d say that there’s no chance that some of the guys in this film have not been ‘on the juice’ to enhance their physiques. One of the actors (I won’t say who – I’ll just leave it for you to work out) clearly didn’t achieve his look through purely natural means.

The Story and the Acting

Away from the actual tournament, this film has a very strong and believable plot. All the main characters have depth to them and all the different strands of the story come together well. You can believe in both brothers and how and why they come to fight, as well as the reasons for the personal animosity between them.

Even the minor characters – like the headmaster at the school – are done well.

And the acting is top notch as well. Nick Nolte is on fine form as the father of the two men – certainly it’s the best performance I’ve seen him put in, while Jennifer Morrison both looks and acts far better than the dreadful Talia Shire of the Rocky films.

The one thing that I’m not sure about was how we were supposed to react to Tom Hardy’s character, Tommy. I suspect that we were supposed to be split between which brother we wanted to win – Tommy or Brendan – but since Tommy had acted like a prick for most of the film, I was firmly behind Brendan all the way.

So who won? I can’t tell you that! But I can tell you that when the film ends (almost straight after the fight), I could happily have watched another 45 minutes just to see the fallout.

Should You Go and See Warrior?

I’m sure most blokes around my age understand the Rocky IV effect. Rocky IV has a pretty loose plot, but it has tremendous fight scenes, great training montages and a kick-ass soundtrack. In the absence of a plot it still manages to be one of our favourite films.

Imagine if Rocky IV actually had a plot, and a damn good one at that? Imagine if Rocky IV was acted well?

Then you’ve got Warrior. The only thing is lacks compared to Rocky IV is the soundtrack, but apart from that, it’s amazing.

Despite being almost two and a half hours long, the film flew by. At no point did I check my watch or think the film was dragging.

I would go out on a limb and say this is the best film I’ve seen this year, and I’d happily go back and watch it again tomorrow.

Very highly recommended.


Film Review: Killer Elite (or ‘Average, but in the grand scheme of things, so what?’)

October 7, 2011

Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling.

Despite getting average reviews at best, I liked the look of the trailer for Killer Elite and would not be deterred from going to see it.

I think I’ve discussed my issues with star ratings or indeed any sort of numerical rating for films and games, and I don’t use them myself. I mean, what is ‘5 Stars’? How do we judge it? If it means the best you can get – like North by Northwest – then by its very nature Killer Elite could never be rated 5 stars or 10/10. Yet because reviewers give out high ratings as if they are going out of fashion, when something gets average ratings the assumption is that’s it’s bad, when in fact 90% of the stuff we watch probably would be considered a ‘6/10’ at best.

So how should it be judged? Well, like anything the question is ‘Will you enjoy it?’. My mum recently inadvertently recommended a couple in their 70s go to see The Inbetweeners film (a film incidentally which I’ve seen but not reviewed yet). They were never going to enjoy it because demographically they were chalk compared to the Inbetweeners’ cheese. And lo-and-behold they didn’t, so while I might say the Inbetweeners was a good comedy film, they would say it was awful.

With Killer Elite, the question is simply ‘Is it a good high budget action film that keeps you entertained for a couple of hours?’

And the answer is yes.

What’s It About?

Photogenic Mitchell Brother Jason Statham plays Danny, a recently retired hitman who is brought out of retirement to save his friend and mentor Hunter (Not Al Pacino, the other one) who is being held hostage by an exiled Omani Sheik. The Sheik is dying and in exchange for Hunter’s life, Danny must kill the SAS soldiers who murdered three of his sons during the Oman War.

So, along with two of his former colleagues (one of whom is played by Acting Legend, Dominic ‘Link the Sink’ Purcell) he hunts down the soldiers in question.

But it’s not as simple as that. Former SAS soldier, Spike (Clive Owen) has become aware of his plans and sets out to stop him.

Cue two hours of fight scenes, showdowns, murder, dodgy acting and explosions.

And Chuck star Yvonne Strahovski getting to play an Australian in something that’s not a video game.

Oh, and Mr Ecko from Lost is in it too, playing a suited up Englishman.


Quite simply, you get what you pay for with this film.

I saw this film 9 days ago now, and the fact that I can’t really remember too much about it probably says a fair bit (first and foremost that I should write my reviews quicker). I did enjoy it though, it’s just that it wasn’t particularly remarkable.

Well, I say that, but there are two things that stuck out for me while watching the film.

The Acting of Dominic Purcell

As a fan of Prison Break, Dominic Purcell became a sort of ironic icon within my social group. His acting as tough-guy-with-a-heart Lincoln ‘Link the Sink’ Burrows was wonderfully crap (who could forget his delivery of the line “The Bridge! It Broke! The Bridge Broke”), so why the director of this film thought it would be a good decision to cast Purcell as a British Hitman shall become one of the great mysteries of the universe.

Purcell isn’t quite sure how to play his character – he drifts between bad English, Scottish and Irish accents and yet ironically is called The Welshman. Oh dear. The best part of his performance is the ridiculous early 80s wig/facial hair.

In fairness to him, if he’d played the part as an American, he’d had fitted in fine, and maybe if it wasn’t for his turn in Prison Break I’d be less inclined to mock. Still…that accent.

The Wardrobe of Jason Statham

This is a film set in the early 1980s and it looks pretty convincing for the period. Clive Owen sports the dodgiest moustache going for his part and in general people dress as badly as the fashion was at the time.

All except for Statham.

Watch the film and you’ll see what I mean. Statham is dressed in the most neutral clothing going. He could easily be playing a character in a film set yesterday. Absolutely nothing about him suggests he’s playing someone in the 1980s. In fact, if anything he looks out of place. Statham is one of these guys who sports designer stubble – it sets off the Hard Man look he’s going for. But there’s a scene in the film where he has to dress up as a Doctor to get some drugs from a London hospital. I would suspect that if a Doctor turned up to work in a hospital in the early 1980s sporting Statham’s stubble, then he’d not only stand out a mile, but he’d also probably be sent home.

So the whole thing begs the question of ‘Why’?

Why does Statham not dress in any way like someone from the 1980s? It’s as if he asked especially not to.

Oh those Hollywood Divas.

Final Thoughts

So apart from those two issues, what else is there to say?

Killer Elite is a pretty standard action film and deserves the 3 stars or 6/10s that it’s getting. But remember that people give films like 127 Hours and Bridesmaids high ratings for reasons best left to them. There’s nothing wrong with average.

If you go to see Killer Elite you’re in for an enjoyable film. It’s not the sort of film you’d go out of your way to see again, but that’s not a problem as far as I’m concerned.