Outlander

Rubbish but of the good kind

What it’s about

A spacecraft crash lands in Iron Age Norway, there are only two survivors, Kainan, and a deadly creature called the Moorwen. If Kainan is to survive and save the Earth he must team up with a local tribe of Vikings and hunt down the Moorwen, before it hunts him down.

My thoughts

This film is based on the Norwegian film of the same name which was released back in 1987, and is one of those films that you would call rubbish but of the good sort. Basically it is a typical alien monster flick, so a superstrong alien creature is hunting people down and slaughtering them en masse et cetera et cetera. The difference is in this case it is set in Iron Age Norway rather than a future world.

And there are some relatively big stars in this, James Caviezel, Ron Perlman, Sophia Myles and of course the legendary John Hurt. So it’s good rubbish with some top-notch actors and I think it’s fair to say that you can tell that the actors would have enjoyed making this film.

In terms of box office response, it was a flop and it is obvious why and that is because it is more B-movie than blockbuster. But as a B-movie it is great fun, I have to say I especially love the game where James Caviezel’s titular character competes against his frenemy in a race in which the track is composed of people holding their Viking Shields over their heads. So in a way it is a bit like running over stepping stones but people holding shields make up the stepping stones.

Also and more importantly there are some solid fight sequences in which there is much blood and gore, which in a movie which is basically a typical sci-fi version of a monster flick mixed with a typical mediaeval Viking film, is a good thing. Also they definitely don’t hold back on the killing side of things, and to say the least once the Moorwen’s lair is found the pileup of bodies is quite the sight to behold.

The creature itself is acceptable and looks like it could do damage, and smartly the director, Howard McClain, does not throw his CGI creation in our faces, preferring a more nuanced approach which focuses mostly on showing its eyes and its scorpion like tail. I have to say when it comes to CGI monsters I’m definitely a fan of less is more and this is definitely a film which holds true to that mantle.

One moment where I did kinda go hang on a minute, was when James Caviezel’s lead character dived into the lake in which his ship had crashed, and collected some metal. Basically he needed to create a sword to kill the Moorwen but what I can’t understand is, considering the length of time he was down there, why he did not just look for another gun, like the one he lost in the beginning. Surely there would have been one and surely it would have been the more logical move.

But a fight with a sword is much cooler than a gunfight and it is what it is, with this in mind if you’re looking to watch a fun sci-fi alien monster flick set in Viking Norway, then you will probably enjoy this film, just remember to watch it with a pinch of salt mentality.

As I frequently watch films with a pinch of salt mentality from me it gets a thumbs up.

​Director: Howard McClain

Writer: Howard McClain, Dirk Blackman

Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi

Year: 2008

​Runtime: 115 minutes

Chain Reaction

Won’t set your heart on fire but will entertain you on a Saturday evening

What it’s about

When a high profile scientist at the University of Chicago is murdered, Eddie, an undergraduate, and physicist Lily are framed and accused of stealing an innovative alternative fuel formula. With the police and the secretive organisation that framed them hunting them, they are forced to go on the run, and if they are to survive they must prove their innocence.

My thoughts

First thing’s first, despite the poor reviews this is an enjoyable and fun film and if you like Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman you’ll probably find it a decent watch; however, before watching it some points need to be taken into account. Firstly, it was made during the time period in which it was popular to believe that there was some secret government force, which was backed by the petrol barons, who were keeping a cheap green energy source from the world.

This film buys into that narrative, a scientist has come up with a way to create cheap and clean energy and wants to give it to the world, but a secret government body controlled by the CIA wants to stop him, the reason being that they argue that the technology would cause markets to crash et cetera et cetera.

So like said it plays into the popular belief of the time, and there are some big names in this, like said Morgan Freeman, Keanu Reeves, but also Brian Cox, Rachel Weisz and others. But despite the strong premise in reality this is nothing more than a typical action thriller.

Or rather the good guy gets framed by the bad guy, then goes on to prove his innocence, save the world, save the girl, and get the girl. The only questionable thing about this film is the fate of Morgan Freeman’s character, he plays a sort of half bad guy half good guy and for the type of film this is the fact he does not face any form of real justice for his half bad guy deeds is perhaps a questionable choice.

In fact it is most likely born out of the the fact producers suspected that cinemagoers wouldn’t like to see Morgan Freeman as the bad guy, or rather at least that they would not like to see him get his comeuppance in the way typical bad guy would. But in all honesty he didn’t have to get a typical bad guy ending, and with a little bit more creative thinking there could have been a better one, at least in regards to the plot.

But I don’t want to be negative because this film is an enjoyable watch, nothing special which the indifferent reviews are testament to, but most definitely an enjoyable watch, and if you are a fan of Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman, and are not the type of person who will sit there criticising every element of a film, it will entertain you on a Saturday evening and for that reason from me it gets a thumbs up.

​​Director: Andrew Davis

Writer: J.F. Lawton and Michael Bortman

Genre: action, drama, sci-fi

Year: 1996

​Runtime: 107 minutes

True Lies

A brilliant but equally hilarious action thriller

What it’s about

The life of a fearless globetrotting secret agent, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, takes a shocking turn when he suspects his wife of having an extramarital affair with a used-car salesman who is posing as a secret agent. He must now not only save the world but also save his own marriage.

My thoughts

This has everything you want from an Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick, so full of one-liners, a good amount of comedy, and much ass kicking. But it is not a conventional action flick, it is in fact an action film combined with a domestic comedy, two genres that not many people would ever think of combining.

But this is James Cameron, a man who is indisputably the king of making great films. And this is a great film, and perhaps what makes this film one of Arnie’s best non-terminator outings is the relationship between Schwarzenegger himself and his on-screen wife, who is played by Jamie Lee Curtis.

Basically Helen Tasker, wife of Harry Tasker, has no idea that Harry is a secret agent and in fact believes him to be an extremely boring computer salesman. Their marriage is dull, so dull that when a snake car salesman pretends to be a secret agent in an effort to lull her into bed, she falls for it.

Arnie’s Harry Tasker though, gets wind of this cue hilarity. Anyhow while hilariously trying to save his marriage he loses sight of his main mission which is of stopping a terrorist from using four nuclear warheads which have been smuggled into the US.

This leads to both he and his wife being kidnapped by the terrorists. Much kick ass’ery then ensues, along with much hilarity, perhaps two of the funniest moments coming firstly when Jamie Lee Curtis’ Helen Tasker drops a machine gun and it falls down a flight of stairs, in the process taking out all the terrorists, and then secondly later on in the film when the terrorists find themselves in a precarious position in a van which hangs over the edge of the bridge. They think that they are safe and that they are not going to fall over the edge, but then a bird lands on the bonnet. Guess what happens next, goodbye terrorists.

The best one-liner and the one to watch out for in this film inevitably comes at the end, it is not one of his best but is still highly effective. (Spoiler alert) While flying a fighter jet, the terrorist gets hung up on one of the rockets, before releasing the rocket and sending the terrorist to his doom, Arnie says, “you’re fired”, and he says it in that way that only Arnie can.

All in all this is a highly entertaining watch, and without a doubt one of Arnie’s best in the more slapstick style action hero genre. For that reason, along with the fact that it’s an Arnold Schwarzenegger film (I’m a big fan), from me it gets a big thumbs up.

​​Director: James Cameron

Writer: James Cameron

Genre: action, comedy, thriller

Year: 1994

​Runtime: 141 minutes

Vantage Point

Solid Action Thriller Told in a Unique Way

What it’s about

US President Henry Ashton attends a summit in Spain to sign a treaty but is shot by an unknown sniper. Subsequently, an explosion takes place in the square, which leads to absolute chaos.

My thoughts

Despite the unique storytelling style this is basically a run-of-the-mill action film, so someone gets shot in this case the president, someone has to chase the shooter and there is much shooting and a car chase from a car which has been commandeered et cetera et cetera.

In terms of the unique story making style, basically as said the president is assassinated and the moments leading up to and right after the assassination are told from several different perspectives.

What this means is rather than a normal film in which time moves normally, we watch the same moment happen several times over but from the perspectives of different characters, each character providing another piece of the puzzle.

With that said first things first about this film it is short, and considering that in reality it is only telling a period of time of about thirty minutes or so in total, and is telling those thirty minutes again and again but from different perspectives, and there is not any depth to the story, it needs to be.

In terms of whether it works, after the fourth or fifth perspective change the film starts to drag namely because it is only reaching the point of the assassination and not moving beyond it, and there is not much story to it, but thankfully the director has realised that this is the limit and has allowed the film to really kick on from this point with the action properly taking off.

And when the action takes off this becomes a surprisingly pleasing to watch action thriller, nothing special which is likely why it receives such a poor critical response, but as an action film it is entertaining. The only real gripe I have with it is how it ends, without giving anything away basically rather than Dennis Quaid’s character using his smarts to save the day, basically he gets lucky.

I have to say I am not a fan at all of endings where the good guy only saves the day because of pure luck, it just screams of laziness from both the director and writer. And I have to say I believe this film deserved a better ending. In fact it deserved a better story full stop, especially considering this was a film told using such a unique style. It was just begging a more compelling story than just your standard run-of-the-mill action film story of someone gets shot good guy chases bad guy et cetera et cetera.

But that aside this is still a highly watchable action film which is told in a unique way, and as Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker put in solid performances as the lead characters, that means all in all this film gets a thumbs up from me.

​​Director: Pete Travis

Writer: Barry L Levy

Genre: action, thriller, crime

Year: 2008

​Runtime: 90 minutes

2 Guns

Action Thriller That Starts Slow but Has a Clever Twist

What it’s about

Two undercover agents, Robert and Michael, aim to expose Manny ‘Papi’ Greco, a drug lord. Unaware of each other’s true identities, the two get into trouble when they finally meet Papi.

My thoughts

An action film which stars both Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg to say the least sounds a mighty compelling film. But that is perhaps why this film struggles to impress. The problem of expectations.

And those expectations are hit right at the beginning because to say the least this is a bit of a slow starter, and the way the timeline jumps back and forth in the beginning is without a doubt messy. However, it is still a fun film with a surprisingly clever storyline.

Also despite in the beginning the chemistry between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg seeming a bit lacking the chemistry along with the initial slow pacing grows as the narrative progresses.

All in all, this is a passable action flick that feels like it should have been more than it is but as it is is still half decent watch. Basically if you like Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg then in all likelihood you will enjoy this film, but not as much as perhaps you would hope.

And that perhaps is the lasting feeling, and the fundamental problem with this film, it’s a good film with a clever storyline but not as good a film as you want it to be considering the billing.

But as it is a decent action film it gets a solid thumbs up from me.

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Writer: Blake Masters and Steve Blake

Genre: action, crime, thriller

Year: 2013

Runtime: 99 minutes