I'm in a rush this evening, so these are uber-quick reviews.....
The 13th Warrior, (1999) - 6/10
An Arab joins up with a group of Vikings in order to battle mythical
creatures that are terrorising a village.
I enjoyed this to a certain point. The films history is a troubled one
with reshoots by the writer (Michael Crichton) and the director (John
McTiernan) walking off. This shows as characters and sub-plots disappear
or make little sense.
Still, Crichton managed to salvage something of a decent film here. I
usually dislike Antonio Banderas, but I liked his role here. It's
ludicrous that he learned a new language in a few days by just listening
to those around him, but I take this film as goofy fun.
If memory serves this is based on one of Crichton's really old books
that itself was based loosely on the Beowulf legend. If hack 'n slash
nonsense is your bag then you could do a lot worse than giving this a
The Woodsman, (2004) - 8/10
Walter (Kevin Bacon) returns to his hometown after serving 12 years in
prison for molesting little girls. He gets a job and a girlfriend, but
how long can he keep his past and urges under wraps?
Kevin Bacon may well be the most under appreciated actor working today.
If it weren't for it's difficult subject matter Bacon's turn here would
have been a shoe in for an Oscar this past February. Bacon manages the
seemingly unthinkable, making us feel pity for a convicted paedophile.
This in itself makes the film a difficult watch. Our initial reaction is
to vilify these people, but the film portrays Walter as a confused man
who wants to fight his urges, to be normal, but is fighting a losing
battle. I don't want this to sound like I'm condoning child molestation
here, all I'm trying to say is that this film gives as look at
paedophilia that we don't normally see, or in some cases don't ever want
Ultimately this is a hard watch, especially in the later scenes. But, I
feel it was a brave piece of filmmaking from debut writer/director
Nicole Kasell and a superlative bit of acting from Bacon. If you can
handle the subject matter then this is a must see.
Spartan, (2004) - 9/10
After a high ranking US official's daughter is kidnapped and sold into
the middle eastern slave trade a Secret Service operative (Val Kilmer)
heads up the operation to get her back. What he doesn't suspect is that
there may be more to the teens kidnapping than he ever imagined.
David Mamet may well be the most under appreciated director working
today. I have loved every single film of his that I have seen. His style
is unmistakable. From the spaghetti like plot's, bluffs and double
bluffs tot he ultra stylised dialogue. Nobody writes a script quite like
His dialogue, is more than realistic, it's super realistic, you can
imagine these people actually speaking like this. Exposition is thin on
the ground as in reality people generally don't stop to explain what has
been happening for the last 90 minutes. So, if you let your attention
wander there is a danger of getting lost.
Val Kilmer has been doing great work recently (Alexander aside, but even
that wasn't as bad as people make out) and this is another feather in
his cap. This may well be his best work since Tombstone. He is ably
supported by Kristen 'Veronica Mars' Bell, Ed O.Neil and Mamet stalwart
William H. Macy.
I'm deliberately not going into detail about the plot as half the fun of
the film is letting it unfold in front of you without a clue as to
what's going to happen next. If you're a Mamet fan then this should be
top of your "to watch" list. If not then you may want to tread carefully
as his style isn't to everyone's taste.
"Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"
Peter Graves as Capt Oveur, Airplane! (1980).
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