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

The Pathfinder

Cool -looking Vikings and an all-round gorefest

What it’s about

A young boy, who is the lone survivor of a Viking expedition to the Americas, is raised by the Native Americans. Years later, he must defend his tribe when it is attacked by Vikings.

My thoughts

First things first, despite how it may appear in the film’s intro, to say this film is based on any form of true events is quite ridiculous. It is entirely fiction, the only real truth is the fact that yes Viking’s made it to the Americas in the year 1000.

With that out of the way, to say the least this film has some bad reviews and in all honesty it is understandable why. But that does not mean it is not a watchable film, it just means that before watching this film a number of factors need to be taken into account, specifically the problems with the film, the first problem of which is the fact that it suffers from white saviour mode. The one white guy amongst all the Native Americans is the only one that can save them, and he has to do it single-handedly.

There is nothing wrong of course with having a white guy as the hero, but the problem really is just how weak the Native Americans are depicted as. Even the greatest warriors are pretty much just just cattle to the Viking’s sword. Yes, the truth is at the time they would not really have stood much chance against the Vikings superior weaponry, but they would definitely have put up a better fight.

Then there are the Vikings themselves, they are pretty much genocidal maniacs in this film which of course in real life, despite popular belief, they very much were not. Then there is Kurt Urban’s titular character, Ghost, despite having no real combat training with his sword he seems to be a master with the sword. And he has to be considering all the Vikings he has to kill all by himself.

Then there is the fact that there is zero characterisation in this film, Moon Bloodgood plays the love interest and it has to be said she makes a titanic effort to try to make it seem that she matters and that there is love between her character and Kurt Urban’s, but she is given so little to work with that despite her great efforts there is just nothing. She exists, he exists, do they love each other, if they do we only know because they tell us as such.

And I could go on and on and on, listing all the many many problems with this film, but I am not going to. In fact I’m going to stop there and here is why, the reality is this film is simply a mediaeval gorefest with Kurt Urban fighting off super-sized genocidal Vikings – who I should add just look really cool. In fact, the wardrobe department though they get zero points for realism they get a ten out of ten for cool factor, the armour that the Vikings wear is just awesome.

Anyhow, I’m going off track. The good thing about this film is the fighting and gore, in fact this film is really just a mediaeval fight fest, and there are some great fights and cool action sequences in this film, especially the sledging down a hill using a Viking shield and the action sequence at the end which involves an avalanche.

With this in mind if you are able to watch this film as only a gorefest in which Kurt Urban brutally and single-handedly fights off really cool looking super-sized Vikings – I forgot to mention that they were giants, in fact they would probably make modern day WWE wrestlers looks small – anyhow if you are able to see this film only as that then you will probably like it. If you’re unable to do this then you probably won’t, with this in mind as a mediaeval fight fest with cool but very unrealistic Vikings it gets a thumbs up, as anything else it gets a thumbs down.

​​Director: Marcus Nispel

Writer: Laeta Kalogridis

Genre: action, adventure, historical

Year: 2007

​Runtime: 107 minutes

The Core

An Exhilarating Ride to the Centre of the Earth

What it’s about

When the Earth’s inner core stops spinning, it causes the planet’s electromagnetic field to rapidly deteriorate. The only way to save planet Earth is to set the core spinning again which means a team has to go where no man has gone before, to the centre of the planet where they need to kickstart the core, should they fail then the world will end.

My thoughts

Firstly, this is an entertaining film, secondly, its premise, which is along the lines of a team of experts must journey to the centre of the Earth to restart the planet’s core after an experiment gone wrong had caused it to stop, is brilliant. Thirdly, the journey to the centre of the Earth is an extremely imaginative journey and the writers, Cooper Layne and Jon Rogers, have done very well at imagining what such a journey would be like, what the different layers would be like. Also, the director, Jon Amiel, has done a great job at bringing their vision to life.

Really it just has to be said that, the best thing about this film is the journey to the core, it is exhilarating, imaginative and just downright fun. And considering that the film is about the journey to the core that is of course a very good thing.

But, with all that said, unfortunately it is not as good a film as perhaps it could have been. To explain, firstly there are the very American centric clichéd characters, the most clichéd perhaps being the computer genius who just so happens to be tall and very skinny and very geeky. Also there is a Russian character who is a little eccentric.

There is even the character who of course stole another character’s work and passed it off as their own and got super famous off the back of it, but now of course to save the world the two characters have to work together.

But the clichéd nature of the characters are pretty much an inevitability of the period in which the film was made, in fact when watching a film from the early noughties which was when this was shot you almost expect such clichédness.

However, where this film perhaps falls down a little is in regards to the character fatality rate of this film, without giving much away a good few of the main characters die, and in all honesty in a film like this so many of the lead characters dying just doesn’t really feel right.

To explain, this is very much a typical feelgood film, the world is going to end and the odds of stopping the world ending are so astronomical it beggars belief, but we should not be afraid because there are a team of people who are going to do something seemingly impossible and save us all.

So this is very much a pinch of salt the world is ending but we are going to save it type of film, so it’s a feelgood factor film with this in mind you would of course expect a character death but only one or at most two and you would expect them to die in a very dramatic way.

In this film like I say without giving anything away too many of the main characters die, and as such the deaths just do not feel like they belong in a film of the type they are trying to make. If this was a more realistic type of film, one that really delved into just how complex and how impossible their task was, so a film that was more a nitty-gritty type drama rather than a simple action thriller, then things would have been different.

But the fact is things were not different. Which means when the characters die in reality it just kind of feels like, blah, another one bites the dust. There is just no real connection to them to make you really feel like that death mattered, but then of course there is not it is simply not the type of film to build up those connections.

Like said though despite the overkill of the main characters it is still a highly entertaining watch, not the type of film that will set your heart on fire but the sort that will make you at least invested in what they are doing and will as such entertain, the finale is also quite dramatic and does provide a solid, come on you can do it moment. Because of this from me it gets a thumbs up.

​​Director: Jon Amiel

Writer: Cooper Layne, John Rogers

Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi

Year: 2003

​Runtime: 135 minutes

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Ultimate Proof That Friendship Has No Prejudice

What it’s about

Bruno is the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a concentration camp during WWII. His friendship with a Jewish boy he meets across the fence leads to unexpected consequences.

My thoughts

​This is a truly empowering story about friendship with an extraordinarily powerful message at its heart, which also captures brilliantly the horrors of the Holocaust and the madness of it without utilising any real violence. 

If you’re looking for a film that will leave you feeling happy at the end, this is not for you. But if you’re looking for a film that will change the way you see the world, then this is one of those films, because it’s a damn guarantee that after watching this you will never look at a person who thinks differently to you in the same way again.

For that reason and many more this film gets a definite thumbs up from me.

Director: Mark Herman

Writer: Mark Herman

Genre: drama, history, war

Year: 2008

Runtime: 94 minutes

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Ultimate Proof That Friendship Has No Prejudice

What it’s about

Bruno is the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a concentration camp during WWII. His friendship with a Jewish boy he meets across the fence leads to unexpected consequences.

What you will learn from watching it

​This film brilliantly captures the horrors of the Holocaust and the madness of it without utilising any real violence.

But it is not the Holocaust or the atrocities of the Nazi’s that people will take from this film, what they will take from this film is a most beautiful but also heart-wrenching reality about friendship, and that reality which is shown without a hint of preaching is that hate is learnt and friendship truly does have no prejudice.

Is the story any good

Mark Herman directed this film and adapted the story from the novel of the same name which is written by John Boyne. And what a good job he has done, the story is both beautiful, poignant and completely and entirely heart wrenching.

A rare spoiler alert, this film will break your heart but in doing so it will open your mind to a reality that is so empowering it is worth the price.

And that is the power of the story, you know what is going to happen all the way through, you may hope for a different outcome, but you know what is going to happen and yet you can’t stop watching because the friendship that is growing between the two boys on either side of the fence, a Jewish boy and the son of a Nazi commander is such a beautiful friendship.

Final words

If you love stories of the most human kind, then you will love this film. But be warned, if you’re looking for a film that will leave you feeling happy at the end, this is not for you. But if you’re looking for a story that will change the way you see the world, then this is one of those, because it’s a damn guarantee that after watching this you will never look at a person who thinks differently to you in the same way again.

That means, without a shadow of a doubt this film gets monumental thumbs up from me.

Director: Mark Herman

Writer: Mark Herman

Genre: drama, history, war

Year: 2008

Runtime: 94 minutes