Solomon Kane

Solomon Kane (film)
Solomon Kane

I saw this last week, but haven’t had time to draft up a review. So here it is. Better because it’s had time to mature. Or something.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Bad man turns good then turns bad because badder men make him only it’s a good thing.

Robert E. Howard is most famous for bringing Conan to the world of fantasy. He did create a few other characters, such as King Kull, Sailor Steve Costigan and the Puritan warrior Solomon Kane.

Kane makes for an interesting hero. A sailor and soldier who has fought under Admiral Drake. He turns to a life of treasure hunting and greed, caring not a jot for the lives of anyone. Until he finds out that Satan’s decided that his soul would make a very tasty morsel, renounces all evil and locks himself away in a monastery.

The very opening scene is incredibly Indiana Jones-esque as Kane (James Purefoy) and his band of not-so-merry men find a temple ripe for the ransacking. As the men are plucked off, Kane concentrates on only gold and glory. This is the turning point in his life.

The character we encounter shortly afterwards is a changed man, hiding so that his soul won’t be nabbed and used as a toothpick by the Lord of Darkness. Kane can no longer lead the life he did. Kill another man and his soul is forfeit.

Kane is soon befriended by a small family (including Pete Postlethwaite), travelling home by horse and cart. Unfortunately for Kane, or actually more unfortunately for the family, nasty men are busy killing menfolk and enslaving their women. One such party provokes Kane to such a degree that blood is spilt and he finds himself on a quest while trying to keep the devil off his back.

It’s a simple plot, but played well. There are no great surprises and it follows sword and sorcery rules – which it should as Howard pretty much wrote the book on them. There are witches, mutants, wizards, devilspawn, lackeys, maidens, lords, intrigue, betrayal, swords, axes, zombies… it’s all there.

Like The Wolfman which I saw a short while before, this is as good an example of this genre as you’re likely to get in this modern day. Well made, well acted and lovely effects. Just right for switching the brain off and enjoying a little brutal action.

It really has me hoping that someone has the guts to make a new Conan film with a decent cast and a proper budget. As long as they stick closely to one or other of the books.

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The Wolfman

Plot-in-a-nutshell: It’s a werewolf film. What more do you need? Look at the flipping title!

The Wolfman is how you do a remake of a classic horror. Lon Chaney Jr would be proud as the traditional old tale has been given a modern-day budget, but thankfully is still set in Olde Englande.

Benicio del Toro plays a young (ish – he’s starting to get a bit wrinkly) man, summoned back to England from America when his brother’s body is found dead in a ditch. Rumours abound that the killing was done by a wild beast, the third in recent months. Blame falls partly on a group of gypsies (it’s not politically incorrect if it’s the 19th century) and then on the Talbot family.

The film has all you need for a romp of that era: pitchfork wielding locals, a screaming priest, a policeman from London town (Hugo Weaving – superb) who doesn’t fit in with the country folk… I also have to mention Anthony Hopkins just because he’s fantastic.

Oh, and great effects. American Werewolf in London can still hold its head high for the makeup and animatronics they used, but The Wolfman is the modern equivalent. The transformations are seemless and bloody, suitably horrific.

Some of the images that stick in the mind really hark back to the old Universal films, such as the werewolf clad in torn period clothing. A real homage without being a simple remake.

There’s a good mixture of tense, jumpy moments with outright hack and slash horror, too. It’s a fairly simple story, well told and fitting its running length perfectly.

If you like a “proper” horror movie, then this is definitely recommended.

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Fear Factory, Glasgow Garage

Fear Factory, Glasgow Garage 18 Feb 2010
Blurred Burton

This was my first visit to The Garage in Glasgow, and I’m impressed. Friendly door staff, swift service at the bar and superb security at the front of the venue. Thank you to all for their hard work.

Even more impressive was that my first pint only cost me £2, though this may have been because the Strongbow wasn’t working off tap so I was given a can poured into a glass. My second was £2.80, but that’s still a damn good price for a gig.

Sylosis were on stage when I got there (I missed the first support – they could only have had 20 minutes) and I was pretty impressed by this five-piece. Despite being on a stage the size of a postage stamp (and being limited to the perforations around the edges) they had the audience’s attention and got a good send-off when they finished. Good luck to them.

What followed was without a doubt the fastest set change I have ever witnessed at a concert. I just had time to buy that second pint when the lights went down and Fear Factory took to the stage. Which begs the question, “who does it usually take them 45 flipping minutes at other gigs?”

The set was a great mix of old and new. Three tracks, if I recall correctly, from the new Mechanize album and plenty of older favourites including “Martyr”, “Lynchpin” and “Self Bias Resistor”.

Of course, the best was saved for last with the final encore being “Replica“.

It was great to see Dino back in the lineup. It’s almost like he’d never left. Twenty or so years this lot have been going and they’ve yet to release a bad album. Some definitely better than others, but Demanufacture makes it onto my top ten of all time partly due to its originality (at the time) and influence.

Great to see that they can still put on a hell of a show.

I’m bruised, battered, stretched, aching, hoarse, exhausted and elated. I keep thinking I’m getting too old for this, then I get the hairs going up on the back of my neck as the opening chords of a favourite track erupt from the speakers.

I’m not too old. And it’s not too loud. Roll on Hatebreed/Machine Head next Tuesday.

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Four Film Tuesday

Despite being loaded with cold (by which I mean, being male, that I was DYING) I made it to the cinema to catch four films today: A Single Man, Battle for Terra 3D, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and Valentine’s Day.

A Single Man

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A day in the life of a gay man in the 60’s who’s lover died recently.

Beautifully directed. Artfully shot. Emotionally acted. Utterly boring.

Obvious OSCAR nomination material due to the subject matter and poncy direction, but incredibly dull and boring. To its credit, I can’t believe that this is the same Colin Firth who was in the atrocious St Trinian’s films. OK, this film’s still not exactly great but at least it’s not trash.

Battle for Terra (3D)

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Humanity invades a peace-loving alien world.

I’d not actually heard of this film other than in the cinema listings so I wasn’t expecting much. How wrong I was. This is not the kind of fare one automatically thinks of when you see the words “cartoon” and “computer generated”. Think more The Last Starfighter than Wall-E. I’d go so far as to say it’s not really a kids’ film so much as a young adults’.

First up, there’s no real comedy in it. Neither are their a multitude of background jokes and references. Cute characters or sidekicks? None. OK, so there’s a robot thingy but it’s hardly a comedy character.

It’s hardly original fare. Part of the plot and ideas can be likened to sources such as Avatar, Battlestar Galactica (the way the human ships launch), Planet 51, Independence Day (the ending) and countless others. However, it is so well packaged that it stands very well in its own right.

The story’s fairly run-of-the-mill, but takes the best of many sources and welds things together into a tight little arc that fits snugly into the short running length. The visuals are superb, voice acting top notch (Mark Hamill and James Garner for crying out loud!) and direction pinpoint.

Sure, it’ll never be up there with PIXAR’s finest simply as it’s never going to get the advertising money behind it. This is BandSlam compared to Disney’s High School Musical series. Far superior, but squirrelled away.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Teenage boy finds out he’s a demi-god, quest ensues.

OK, you want a short review? Harry Potter meets The Clash of the Titans. It is such an easy comparison to make because that’s what it is. We’ll see how it fares against the real Clash remake in a few weeks, but in the meantime this is an enjoyable enough ride.

Let’s look at it and I’ll try to be as spoiler-free as possible.

  • Boy has poor, mildly abusive upbringing
  • No real knowledge of parentage (OK, he knows his mum in this film)
  • Ends up at school for children like him when he discovers his “true self”
  • Rails against authority figure at school despite being their favourite
  • Forms little group containing himself, incredibly talented female and token minority character (Jackson: black kid; Potter: ginger kid)

If you’ve seen Clash or have any knowledge of Greek mythology you’ll know how several of the set pieces will go. Medusa to Hydra – it’s just like it was in Harryhausen’s epic.

It’s still not a bad film, though. And it’s great to see Sean Bean as Zeus. Ruler of the gods and he has a Yorkshire accent. I’m assuming this will develop into a series following the books, so it could improve. Harry Potter, in my opinion, did. A decent start, but it really needs some more originality so I hope the later tomes are better.

Valentine’s Day

This will likely be the only mention of this “holiday” on my blog this year as I, personally, hate it. Utterly commercial and not even a proper holiday. Anyway…

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Various people are single or in couples, then they meet up or split up and then it all ends.

This is a US take on the films of Richard Curtis et al who really know how to put one of these together. Plenty of swearing usually helps (Four Weddings, I’m looking at you), and I believe there was one “shit” in the entire of Valentine’s Day. Poor showing.

It is not a bad film. There are more plot threads than anything Tarantino’s put together, with the characters interwoven very tightly. A little too much, to be honest, and it pushes coincidence just a little too far. However, the plot doesn’t revolve around this coincidence except for one little piece, so this is forgiveable.

The cast is stellar, though CineWorld’s reason to see the film amounts to the fact that it’s the first one in which Julia Roberts and her niece both star. Erm. Big whoop.

If you know your multi-threaded rom-coms this is nothing new. It’s one full valentine’s day of some indeterminate year (not this year as it’s on a Monday in the film) and… things happen. As a general rule, people who are together split up. Those who aren’t, get together.

There are a couple of little surprise moment, especially towards the end.

Now, I’m a jaded old fart. But there were two moments in particular that had me – and the entire audience – going “aaaaah” and/or reaching tissue-wards. I won’t spoil them other than to say they both involved the young boy.

This isn’t the laugh-fest promised by the trailer. In fact most of the biggest giggles are in the trailer itself. There’s a fair bit going for it, though, and it’s worth seeing. It could have stood beig maybe 15 minutes shorter, but other than that it’s not bad.

An easy pigeon hole to put it in, but it’d be a good date movie.

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Twitter free on Three (but why bother?)

The Twitter fail whale error message.
Nice try, Three...

I got a text message from Three (my mobile carrier) telling me that Twitter is free on my phone until March 31st. It uses one of those short-code phone numbers and there’s no indication of the cost once the promotion ends.

However, given that I have unlimited (erm… 4000 I think, so not actually unlimited) texts per month, this is utterly pointless.

I may have mentioned ping.fm before. If not, then head over there, register and link it to your phone number. It’s completely free and the number you send a text message to is a genuine UK mobile number, and therefore free to send to with any inclusive package.

It does a lot more than just post to Twitter, and it’s all customisable. I’ve set mine to forward text messages to Twitter and photo attachments sent via email to ping.fm are passed on to flickr. All of this is free, and doesn’t expire on March 31st.

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