300: rise of an empire


Now the Oscars are over it seems to be slim pickings when choosing a film to go to see at the cinema. I did want to see 300 because I had enjoyed the previous one so much and since childhood I have always enjoyed Greek mythology, watching Jason and the Argonauts as well as Clash of the Titans. There are plenty of battle cries, bulging muscle and buxom lady warriors to see in this film following the battle between Persia and Greece, principally the city of Athens. I love the way the director film’s each sequence with its cloudy mysticism. Those more technically minded than me will know what type of filming this is, alas I love film but know very little about how it works.

The basic story is about a famous Greek warrior who is willing to take on the might of the Persian army. The Persians have a God ruling them in the shape of Xerxes who was once a man but became a God by immersing himself in a pool of evil after a long journey through the wilderness. Revenge is his sole endeavour as he wants to kill those that killed his father. The once powerful king was killed by a single arrow to the heart produced from the strong arms of the Greek warrior Thermestokles mentioned earlier. Xerxes is the God, But at his side is a warrior princess Artemesia who also seeks revenge, having been born a Greek, but living as a slave to the many men that killed and raped her family. She is definitely a lady not to be messed with as she can fight like a man, but can also use her body to allure those weak enough not to be able to resist temptation.

There are numerous battle scenes on the sea, but most are pretty much the same. It is a battle against the odds, skill verses numbers and one woman against one man. Eva Green is the perfect villain as she shows off her fighting skills on numerous occasions. The look of evil in her eyes most definitely keeps you hooked, there is no soft side to this warrior princess. Eva is never too scared to reveal her body in films and this is no exception. She is an attractive actress, but the camera is not so kind to her at certain angles in this film particularly when her beauty is mentioned. It is very hard to believe that Eva is French as she puts on an English accent to bring fourth her evil character. It’s funny how the English make such good villains.

Sullivan Stapleton ‘llays the Greek warrior Thermestockles and the hero very well although there are quite a few cheesy lines coming from that Australian mouth of his. This is all part if the fun and I think the hammy acting adds to the fun of the film and brings the characters to life. You can really believe that he is the hero although I’m not sure I believe that this man has has the brains and the tactics to win against such a sizeable enemy. There are more six packs on show then in a copy of men’s health, whether this is as a result of a major workout or whether they have been airbrushed on, I’m not sure?
Xerxes is the God although he looks very camp with his make up and large collection of jewellery. The difference between Xerxes human form and his change to a living God is spectacular, making you think that there are two actors playing the part, but I assure you there is is only one. In all honesty he is not the one in charge, it is Eva Green who has the balls in this war.

The film was hugely enjoyable with its many stylistic scenes, big characters and cheesey lines. It’s one of those films that does exactly what it says on the tin. The vast majority of the film involves sword play, blood, mysticism and a snippet of sex. If you don’t want to think too hard and don’t mind a group of muscular men running around with swords then this is a good film for you to see. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.



my top 10


I was asked what my top 10 films were, which is a common question really and one I never really think about too much. How do you compare films? What makes a film your favourite? Why do some love a film and some really hate it? e.g Gravity, which I thought was an awful film, but so many loved it. The best way for me to come up with a list was not to really think about it and write down the first 10 films that came to mind that I really loved and then put them into order. I think this was the best way to do it.

Here is my list

10) Champion- Starring Kirk Douglas and directed by Mark Robson (1949)
09) Moulin Rouge- Starring Jose Ferrer and Zsa Zsa Gabor and directed by John Huston
08) The Big Country-Starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton heston and Burl Ives and directed by William Wyler (1958)
07) Spartacus- Starring Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Laurence Oliver, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis and Charles Laughton and directed by Stanley Kubrick (1960)
06) From here to eternity- Starring Burt Lancaster, Deborah kerr, Montgomery Clift, Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra and driected by Fred Zinnermann (1953)
05) Ben Hur- Starring Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd and Jack Hawkins and directed by William Wyler (1959)
04) Oliver Twist- Starring Alec Guinness and Robert Newton and driected by David Lean (1948)
03) Great Expectations- Starring John Mills, Jean Simmons, Alec Guiness, Valerie Hobson and Martita Hunt and directed by David Lean (1946)
02 Kind Hearts and Coronets- Starring Alec Guinness, Dennis Price, Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood and directed by Robert Hamer 1949)
01)Its a Wonderful Life- Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore and directed by Frank Capra (1946)

These films have given me great joy from a very young age, most of which were introduced to me by my grandparents. I think Champion was the start of some truly great boxing films, this was brutal, emotional and full of moral dilemmas. Kirk Douglas plays the part magnificently as only he could. Kirk is brilliant at playing parts with angst and anger also parts with spirit and emotion. One of my favourite films with him in it, is Lust For Life (1956) about Vincent van Gogh and as you can imagine Kirk was perfect with his ability to portray characters emotions, especially those in turmoil. Kirk Douglas gave an interview once when he was much older stating that he wasn’t the easiest person to get along with because of his drive and determination to succeed. He sometimes stepped on people to get his way and set very high standards for everyone else, ones he set for himself too. This often made him quite an unlikable man at times. He did mellow as he got older and I think the stroke he had put many things into perspective. When you look at the many films he starred in, it was and still is quite a career.
kirk champion
Baz Lurhman is a great director and I love his unique style, especially the way he uses music, mixing modern with the classic tunes of the time periods. His take on the Moulin Rouge was exciting, full of energy and full of amazing characters. The film in my opinion doesn’t match up to the John Huston version telling the story of the poster artist Toulouse Lautrec. There is not quite the energy of the Lurhman take, but it does tell a very real story of a life that started promising, but ended in desperation as Toulouse was taken by the absinthe fairy and his feelings towards the CanCan girls of the Moulin Rouge were not returned. His work was iconic of the time and today he is celebrated, but then life was particularly difficult, especially having a disability like Toulouse had. Jose Ferrer played Toulouse brilliantly, spending a large amount of time on his knees to match the height of the artist, when today it could have all been completed by CGI. It has been a long time since I have seen this film as it is now rarely seen on television, but I suggest that people do because it shows what life was really like.
A star studded cast make this western one of the best ever seen on the big screen, this coming from someone who dislikes the western genre of film. Gregory Peck once again plays the good guy, the fair one and the one who backs away from a physical fight if words are the better tool. Heston is the cowboy who is good at what he does, strong, but when something is wrong then fists start flying. These two do not like each other and do not understand each other, but have a common goal and respect is soon achieved by the end of the day. Jean Simmons is the beauty who has been brought up by a fair minded man and wants peace between the two families, she is the love interest. Burl Ives is the head of the other side and has a set of codes that he lives his life by. His family are wild, womanising and cut throat, much to his shame, but when he feels he is being dealt with unfairly then guns can do the talking. This makes for an exciting showdown between the two families. Burl Ives is a brilliant actor and has a very distinguishable voice, one I remember from a child film I saw, when he sang the Ugly Bug Ball. He plays the old fashioned father who will stick up for his family, but will deal with any misbehaviour inhouse, not being scared to use the back of his hand. Peck is the perfect good guy and Jean Simmons and him make for the perfect couple. There are so many interesting and contrasting characters, which make for a brilliant film,
Kirk Douglas has already been mentioned as has Jean Simmons, but again the performances are brilliant, The contrast between Kirk as the warrior and the soft hearted Jean makes for a great love affair. Spartacus is on a crusade against the Romans, who are the callous and evil men, played so well by the greatest British actor to grace the screen Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis played the lover and musician, who became a brave solder alongside the warrior Spartacus and was willing to die alongside him for the cause. Films like this just do not exist now, despite all the advances in technology and the great sums of money paid to the actors. This was a big reason why I didn’t enjoy Gladiator as it had been done before and far better. Peter Ustinov brought a light heartedness to the film and through the pomposity of his character there were many laughs. The sets were amazing and the acting was superb from every member of the cast. This is just a beautiful film with great storyline to go with it.
If you haven’t seen From Here to Eternity, you must because it is a film with love, passion, war and full of moral dilemma. Burt Lancaster is the picture of masculinity and the scene on the beach has become iconic. Lancaster is perfect in the role as he fights his love and passion for Deborah Kerrs in an affair that seems so right, but is obviously very wrong. This affair could cost both very dearly, but their love is too strong and the risks seem to outweigh their feelings. The chemistry between the two is perfect and you truly believe that there is love between them. Montgomery Clift who had his own battles off screen played his role sensitively as a soldier who refused to fight in the ring because he once blinded his sparring partner. Prewit is tested to the absolute limit by his superiors as they try to force him to fight. The punishments are severe and he is labelled a coward by those that do not know his reasons. The result would be a court-martial, but Prewit wont budge even when Lancasters character tries his hardest to get him to change his mind, looking out for his welfare in doing so. Frank Sinatra plays Prewits best friend and he supports him through, but he too has his own demons leading to many costly outcomes as the film progresses. Donna Reed pulls away from the wholesome image she portrayed in Its a Wonderful Life to play a prostitute down on her luck, who falls for private Prewit along the way. This is an outstanding performance from her, so much so that I didn’t realise it was her until a few years ago and I had watched the film numerous times. This is a film with a very strong cast, brilliant storyline, mixed up with love, war, women, drink and a strong bond between soldiers. This is the original story of pearl harbour and is a great tribute to those that died on that sad day.
eternity 1
eternity 2
Epic is used too many times in my opinion, but Ben Hur is most definitely an epic, not just in the length of the film, but also the characterisation along with the wonderful storyline that gives us action, sports, rivalry, friendship, religion, Jesus and Rome. The Film follows the character Ben Hur as he falls from powerful beginnings to slavery as a great misjustice has been delivered by the Roman Masala played by Stephen Boyd. The once great friendship is destroyed By Masala and leaves Hestons Character and his family to a life of torture and survival. The fall is followed by a rise to become a powerful Roman Chariot racer, which gives him the chance to seek and act his revenge on the powerful Masala. Jack hawkins is the rescuer as he takes Ben Hur as his son, if only for a short time. Ben Hur seeks his Mother and Sister and is shocked by their decline leading him to seek Jesus and Christianity to help them. The film won 9 oscars and right;y so and it stands out as one of the greatest films of all time. The sets were epic as chariots raced around arenas, slaves suffered on large boats, mighty Romans lived in huge monuments and Jesus roamed the deserts and the hills. This is one of those must see before you die films.
The next three I have spoken about in previous blogs, so I will lleave you to read those if you haven’t already. This leads me to my favourite film, which is full of sentiment, human generosity and love. The story is beautiful in itself and leads you to wonder about your own life and the impact you yourself have had on the individuals you have met along the way. It is a story of good verses evil, George Bailey being the good and Mr Potter being the evil. James Stewart plays George Bailey who grows up in a small old town, which he soon grows out of, leading him to aspire to get a good education and see the world. Circumstances mean that George has to stay and run the business, get married and have a family. Donna Reed plays George’s beautiful wife who has had a crush on George from the very moment she met him as a child at the sweet shop. They have a family and it seems that George is stuck in this town forever, running the family business. They are living in difficult times and an incident occurs where George loses everything and could possibly face prison. This plight leads him to contemplate suicide and he heads to the bridge to end it all. George’s life is being watched by a guardian angel who has not earned his wings and needs one good deed to help gain them. This deed is to save George and he does this by throwing himself over the bridge so that George will rescue him, which he does. From this point George is given a great gift, he is shown what life would be like he never existed and believe me it is a real eye opener and not for good reasons either. This is a beautiful film that makes you appreciate the impact you have on those around you and how little things can make big changes. James Stewart is perfect as George Bailey, with his distinctive voice, that always brings great warmth to the characters he plays. Donner Reed is part of a beautiful relationship, which is focused on family. There is nothing in this film that bursts from the screen, it is about the life of an ordinary man, who is kind, generous and has the same battles as any other person, but his actions have had a major impact on those around him no matter how small they seem.
big one
Well there you go, here are my ten favoutite films for you to look over and hopefully I have convinced you to see them yourself. Please let me know what you think and share with me the films that you greatly admire. To pick ten is almost impossible because there are hundreds of amazing films out there which can often be very personal to you and your life.



This blog is about something that literally died out in the early 90’s. It was a dreadful disease that killed many from all walks of life, but now it no longer exists in the western world. This disease only occurs in countries with poor education, amenities and very little in the way of contraception. This could be the opinion of many of us, but it’s not true as aids is still here and still causes deaths although medical developments help those suffering a great deal. The first case of aids was in 1981 and since then 25 million people have died from the disease. There are currently 33.4 million people living with HIV/aids, 97% of which come from less economically developed countries. In 2008 2 million died and 2.7 million were infected. To get this into perspective the number of people living with the disease is equal to Half the population of England and those that died and we’re infected in 2008 is equal to the population of a country like Finland. Most with the disease do not have access to prevention, care and treatment and this is a disease where no cure has been found. There is good news however as those living in poor countries and being diagnosed with HIV/aids are more likely to receive treatment as treatments have increased 10 fold since 2002, now reaching an estimated 4million by 2008.
The virus doesn’t just infect those in the third world because even countries like the USA still have people dying and being infected by aids. 1.1 million people in America are infected by aids and 1 in 6 are completely unaware that they have the virus. This is staggering when you think that this is one of the most powerful countries in the world. Living in England, I very rarely here about aids and its almost like it doesn’t exist. I think the only mention of it is when comic relief is on and money is being raised for third world countries. In the UK there are nearly 100,000 people with aids 21,000 of which are undiagnosed. This means that those suffering from aids is equal to the number of people living in a town the size of Hastings and sadly nearly half of those diagnosed are diagnosed late when treatment should already have started. 1 in 4 of those that have aids are in the 50+ age range which suggests that people with the virus are now living longer.

Why am I talking about aids on a film blog? Well today I saw Dallas Buyers Club, which follows the life of a Texan male diagnosed with the virus in the 80’s when this was a new virus and extremely scary. The story tackles a lot of misconceptions about the virus on how it is caught and who tends to catch it. Aids stood for Away In the Distance back then as people were scared to be touched by anyone with the virus and kept themselves as far away as possible. The saying “ignorance is bliss” could not be more wrong in this instance because ignorance meant fear when aids was even mentioned. Most believed it was a virus that only gay people caught at a time when there was still a great deal of homophobia.
The film depicts a guy who doesn’t quite fit the picture of the stereotypical aids sufferer. He was an electrician in a very masculine industry, who rode bulls, slept with lots of women, drank beer and was brought up despising gay people. The diagnosis left him in disbelief as he linked aids with gay men as did many of his friends and co workers, leaving them to completely ostracise him from their group. Doctors gave him 30 days to live, which was something that he couldn’t accept. New drugs were being developed all the time to help treat the virus and this guy was determined to get hold of them even if it meant smuggling them in from other countries.

This was when he took up the chance to make a profit and sell the drugs to those that needed it. As the film goes on you see new friendships develop, ones which due to his ignorance and prejudices would have been impossible before. A close bond develops between him and his doctor as she begins to realise how important these drugs are and how effective they are in treating the virus. It is not clear whether this develops into love, but they at least have a close friendship. As the film develops it becomes clear that this man is changing and has become a far better person as a result of the virus. He becomes a clean living guy, no longer doing recreational drugs, sleeping around or drinking heavily. What starts off as strictly business turns into a campaign to help those suffering by giving them access to the drugs they need. This guy slowly begins to realise that gay people deserve respect and are nothing to be afraid of. It is a dreadful virus, but made this Texan a far better man who broke down a lot of barriers and misconceptions that he himself once had.

Mathew McConaughey gave the performance of his life and truly deserved the Oscar. To be able to portray such a guy and to portray the emotion that went with a person suffering with aids was remarkable. The feelings of anger, the tears of sadness, the sense of desperation and the determination to live were all performed so well by an actor that has never really shown this capability before. To watch as this person changed physically, emotionally and to see their prejudices slowly disappear was amazing. The commitment to the role was clearly shown by the physical change from being a muscular guy to becoming scrawny and almost skeleton like.

A lot was made of the physical change made by Matthew, but Jared Leto looked horrifying as his bones protruded through his skin. He too picked up an Oscar and rightly so, playing the transsexual who has an adoration for Mark Bolan and a love for make up and wigs. The emotion that came across as Jareds character became fearful of death was truly powerful. The short scene with his father as he revealed that he had aids was particularly moving. A father that could not accept his son as he was, but of course fought back tears at the realisation that his son could die.
This is a remarkable film about remarkable people who fought to stay alive when aids was a death sentence. The performances by all were of the highest standard and fully deserving of every accolade they received. This is a film about breaking down barriers, about prejudice and how with knowledge the prejudices can be removed, it is about the determination to live and how money should never decide whether someone lives or dies. I left the cinema wanting to see this film again and with so many thoughts and feelings going on in mind.