Sunday, 27 November 2016

Film Review: Gladiators of Rome (2014)

Genre: CGI Animated Movie.
About Gladiators.
In Rome. 

When Pompeii was destroyed Timo was left orphaned and homeless. Given a home by famous Gladiator trainer Chirone, Timo quickly becomes inseparable from Chirone's daughter Lucilla.
 But when Lucilla goes away to be educated Timo loses interest in life.  Years later, Timo is a pudgy slacker and the worst trainee gladiator in Rome. 
 When Lucilla returns, Timo has to become a real gladiator in a hurry and luckily there's somebody who can help...

 Apparently this is the msot expensive Italian aniamted film ever made. It's also, as far as I can tell, a complete box office flop.
 I think a lot of that might be down to marketing - because there doesn't seem to have been any. Christ knows I'd never seen or heard anything about this film until I stumbled across it while looking for something else. 
 And if it was ever released in the UK nobody bothered telling me.

 I think that's a shame because I enjoyed Gladiators of Rome quite a lot. 

You can probably guess the reason I checked the film out in the first place. 

I'm a sucker for a brass brassiere.
   While personal trainer Diana is fun to watch, I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of the film.  Considering that studio Rainbow Animation doesn't have the finances of Pixar or Dreamworks, the end result looks pretty good. The facials are good, the movement is good and the backgrounds look good.   The English cast do a stellar job with their dubbing (Italian film, remember) considering there's no "names" whatsoever. 
 Nobody is ever going to watch this movie and go "How the hell did they do that?" but the job gets done. 

 The story isn't too complex but again, the job gets done. Timo starts off as a total loser, screws up one time too many and needs help to turn his life around. Lucilla doesn't want to marry star gladiator Casio. a dick for the sake of it. Nothing too difficult to follow.  Really, it's there to hang a series of gags onto.
 In particular Diana's training camp gives Timo lots of opportunity to hurt himself in amusing ways. And I was amused, especially when two particular characters shown up. They come close to being the most fun part of the film. 
  I could have done without the mascot bunny personally, but this is family movie so whatever. 

You may also not find the farting horse as funny as the writers did but again, whatever. 

  Sounds like I'm damning Gladiators of Rome with faint praise but really, this is a movie that delivers 95 minutes of good entertainment and I found myself really getting into it.  I don't ask a movie to do anything else. 

 To sum up: A pleasant surprise that was well worth my time. 

Screenshot time!

  Does this look like a man who is enjoying his life? 
Are we having fun yet?

 The lovely Lucilla.

A card-carrying wanker.

Diana and Timo share a moment. 
One of these people is in for a nasty shock. 

And here's the trailer:

That's all folks. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Metal Project: S Is For Steel

list of metal songs about metal. Metal playlist.

 I've been thinking that maybe I need a new header for these posts. Maybe something with skulls and chainsaws perhaps. What do you think?

For today's batch of songs we have reached the letter S and I think you can agree that we're in prime hunting country. I could probably do an entire post just using bands called "Steel Something Or Another".

You know what? I think I will. 

So without further ado let's meet some proper metalheads. 

Steel Assassin - Heavy Metal Soldiers from Hell (USA 2009)

Honour to: Forty To One

Steel Angel - For The Metal (France 1985)

Honour to: Nik Rattlehead

Steel Hammer - Heavy Metal Damnation (Colombia 2016)

(Can you picture Mid80s Maiden with Udo Dirkschneider singing? Then have a listen to this.) 

Honour to: Steel Hammer

Steel - Heavy Metal Machine (Sweden 1998)

Honour to: Indoctrination16

And finally...

Steel Warrior - Power Metal (Brazil 2002)

Honour to: Andiara Bonissoni

If you liked what you heard here, please visit and support the channels I linked.

That's all folks. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Been Reading: C J Skuse - Monster (2015)

"At sixteen Nash thought the biggest fight she'd have to face would be the battle to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory. 

  Until her brother's disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory's assorted misfits.

   As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school's dark, dangerous hallways. and the girls will have to stick together if they hope to survive."

  I was on a quick hit & run raid on my local library, grabbing new reading material before scuttling off to get something for my tea, when this leapt out at me.

  I realised quite early on that "Monster" is aimed at a demographic I don't belong to - my guess would be much, much younger and lacking in chest hair -  but after some initial scene setting "Monster" sucked me in deeper and deeper as it kept getting darker and more tense.

  Without giving too much away, this book might start off as a Girls School Drama but by the end it was a bloody thriller.  It also pulled off the neat trick of repeatedly turning out to be a different book to what I was expecting, all without throwing in unnecessary supernatural elements.

  C J Skuse doesn't go overboard with her descriptions. She's better at letting you into heroine Nash's head than letting you know what she looks like and the other characters are also painted in sparse strokes. It works quite well but then again I always prefer it when a writer gets stuck into the story.
   I think Skuse also deserves praise for turning characters that should be a total anachronism into interesting, contemporary characters.  Nash and her crew are an interesting lot and I wouldn't mind a sequel or two.

To sum up: A pleasant surprise and well worth my time.

Monday, 14 November 2016

The Metal Project: R is For Ritual

The Internet's largest collection of songs about metal

  For tonight's post we're leaping ahead to the letter "R" because it turns out that there's an unurprising lack of metal bands that A) Start with Q and B) write songs with "Metal" in the title.

 If you check out my Song list you'll find the ones I've discovered so far but really, it was a thin seam to begin with and I may have mined it out.

  So "R" gives us all sorts of suitably Metal words: Razor, Rage, Revenge...

I would actually love to see if there's a band called Razor Rage Revenge. If there isn't somebody should start one.

 I digress. Here's some songs. Enjoy.  

Ritual Steel - Metalbeasts (Germany 2004)

(Chestbeating, bombastic Heavy Metal)

Honour to: Forty To One

Rising Moon - Swedish Metal (Italy 2005)

(Some sort of tribute to the Swedish scene, maybe?)

Honour to: István Sutyinszki

Rockaway Drive - Burning Metal (USA 2012)

(Channeling the spirit of 80s US Underground heavy metal)

 Honour to: farbeyondhell13

Rob Rock - Metal Breed  (USA 2007)

(Melodic/Power Metal)

 Honour to: Henry Fernández

Rigor Mortis - Metal Hardware (Germany 1985)

(No frills Teutonic Metal.)

 Honour to: Metalavenger78

Resistencia - Guerrero De Piel Y Metal (Ecuador 2007)

(Why does Spanish-language metal always seem to have this call-to-arms vibe to it? Interesting.)

Honour to: canal de ravnwm

And to finish:

Rapid Angel - The Gods Of Heavy Metal  (Germany 2013)

(One of those self-referential songs that seem unique to Metal. )

Honour to: Jackie Stewart

That's all folks. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Metal Project: P Is For Power

The ultimate metal playlist

 I don't normally do posts on current events and fuck it. I'm not going to start now. I think what we all need is a good dose of Heavy Metal goodness so with that in mind, how about we resume our trek through the alphabet of metal?

 Today's post is brought to you by the letter "P

Peace Killers - Green Metal (USA 2016)

(Groovey 70s Style Heavy Rock and a song that deserves more views than it has)

Honour to: FB Metal Groups 5

Band homepage here:

Powerdrops - Bursting Metal (Greece 1998)

(From the crunchy end of Power Metal)


Primitive - Negro Metal Da Morte (Brazil 2016)


Honour to: Arma mpds

Pokolgép -Metalbomba (Hungary 2016)

(Heavy Metal. In Hungarian, which is cool.)

Honour to: Pokolgepfan

Perversor - Forces Of Metal (Chile 2008)

(Abrasive Black Metal with no frills)

Honour to: Blindness KWxxx

Parcas - Juntos Por el Metal (Argentina - Year unknown)

(According to Metal Archives this band released a demo in 1999 but became active again in 2013)

Honour to: CanalDeParcasHeavyMetal

Band home page here:

Presence - Metal Rage (France 1986)

(Catchy Metal/Hard Rock. I am impressed)

Honour to: scorpiomax73

That's All Folks

Sunday, 6 November 2016

DVD Review: War Of The Arrows (2011)

Genre: Korean Period Drama

  Nam-Yi, orphaned son of a traitor is a dispirited slacker who's only talent is his skill with a bow. When his sister Ja-In gets married to a local aristocrat, Nam-Yi is ready to leave his old life behind and take off...

 But then a Manchu army overwhelms their city and Ja-In is hauled off into slavery. Can one man with a bow fight past an entire army to rescue his sister? 

 I picked this one up on a whim. I'm no great connoisseur of Korean cinema but I've liked most of the films I've seen, especially the historical stuff.

 Turns out that War Of The Arrows is a bit of  a gem. 

  After the initial bloodshed that costs our siblings their home and family, things slow down a bit to establish who these people are.  For a while it looks like we might end up watching a period drama about a young man rebelling against his adopted family, but then the Manchu army shows up and things get interesting. 
 The way the tension builds up for the assault is fantastic. The increasingly alarmed  Koreans realising that something is wrong: the oncoming Manchu  closing in for the kill; Nam-Yi desperately trying to get back. All slotted together for maximum impact.

 We also get out first chance to see the unit of Manchu warriors that will be the primary threat for Nam-Yi  and holy crap, they are badass
 Grim-faced commander Jyuushinta is particularly fearsome and manages to radiate cold, brutal efficiency with the simplest gaze. 

  Eventually Nam-Yi and allies manage to catch up with the Manchu and rescue Ji-An and this is when War Of The Arrows went from being something I was enjoying to a film I was totally caught up in. 
 The chase sequence that follows,with our hero scrambling to stay ahead of the implacable Jyuushinta and his men. is every bit as good as Apocalypto  It's tense, fast-paced, inventive and had me on the edge of my seat.
  The climax itself is equally tense but in a different way. I won't spoil it, except to say that I don't think I've ever seen a film with archery put to such dramatic use.

  There's one particular  scene that smacks of Deus Ex Machina and is also hampered by some average FX but otherwise War Of The Arrows is a well-crafted piece of cinema that I enjoyed immensely.  

If you prefer your Asian period movies minus improbable wire-assisted leaping about then this film might work for you. 

 And if you have a curiosity about Korean archery, well, pick it up and take some notes.

 Trailer here:

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