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Gladiator Russell Crowe Joaquin Phoenix Connie Nielsen Oliver Reed Derek Jacobi Djimon Hounsou David Schofield Tomas Arana Ralf Möller Sven-Ole Thorsen

Gladiator: an army general turned slave must rise from the pits of the Colosseum and take down a false leader who murdered his family, friends, and previous employer. The cast is a jaw-dropping mix of ‘classic’ thespians, up-and-comers, bodybuilders, and comedians but everyone feels completely at home in their roles. The plot is simple, but packed with so much Shakespearean betrayal and deception that feels hypnotic in parts. Action scenes are huge, flashy, and bloody – but remain visceral & entertaining, and stand up against anything coming out today. It’s hard to find flaws in this: In fact, my only minor niggle is that some of the setup feels rushed and clunky; like how you can pick anyone off the ground and make ‘em a slave. You know a film is special when even after a handful of viewings and years of TV re-runs it still grips you, and the 155 minute runtime flies by. Everything about Gladiator feels truly ‘epic’ in the classic Hollywood sense – the sets, the action, the plot, the acting, the score – and it all comes together perfectly to create what’s arguably the perfect swords and sandals film.

Score: 9.5/10

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Tom Hanks

Captain Phillips (Mild Spoilers): the Maersk Alamaba cargo ship gets hijacked by four AK-47 wielding Somali pirates whilst navigating ‘round the dangerous ‘Horn of Africa’. I can never tell if Tom Hanks is really good, or really samey (in the same way that Tom Cruise is always Tom Cruise) – although the only dodgy part of this performance was his accent. Unfortunately the film peaks too early, in the nerve-shredding boat boarding set piece, which even the big finale doesn’t live up to. Like most films at the moment, it’s a little flabbier than it needed to be, out-staying its welcome, with a hyper-extended finale in the cramped lifeboat, in which Greengrass slowly loses his grip on the audience. Also, if you know anything about legendary sniper shots, you’ll know how the film ends before you step in to the cinema, which is a bummer! All-in-all, a solid film – but note quite Oscar worthy.

Score: 7/10

captain-phillips 02 Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener, Faysal Ahmed, Michael Chernus, Richard Phillips, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson

Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle): every man struggles for himself in a bleak post-apocalyptic world. Shot entirely in Black and White and with no dialogue, this definitely a unique and memorable style. It looks great: the sets & costumes feel genuinely post-apocalyptic, and the actors are all interesting and peculiar, with emotive faces that lend themselves to silent film – each character’s eyes in particular tells you more than an hour of dialogue could. Despite such a grim vision of the future, there’s a healthy serving of dry, but humanistic, moments of humour and joy to provide some comic relief – the blow up doll piece is hilarious, and the “Hello” scene is cinema gold. Yet, as visually appealing and interesting as the film is, it’s equally stereotypically ‘French arthouse‘ and feels dragged out, disjointed, and pretentious at various points. Another downside is the jazz-lounge soundtrack, which is hideously dated – and with no dialogue, makes for such a crucial part of the film. For being Luc Besson‘s first film, it’s a surprisingly accurate blueprint for his career so far: ambitious, interesting, looks great, but there’s not much under the bonnet.

Score: 5/10

The Fall: (Blu Ray) With a ‘to watch’ pile this big it’s uncommon for me to re-watch a film, even rarer viewing one several times within a year, but after subjecting many a friend to the DVD I couldn’t pass up a loan of this Blu Ray. The Fall is pretty impossible to pigeonhole but would probably fall more under the Art realm than just a plain ol’ Movie. In saying this, the mythical storyline is pure cinema escapism that you rarely see these days: much like the magic Cinema would have had like in the 1920s. There’s more eye-popping locations on display than the finest travel brochure – so many that some get no more than 1/4 second glimpse: Colosseum, Eiffel Tower… Both lead characters are fantastic; Pace should be a much bigger star and the young girl Catinca Untaru will be, mark my words! The scenery, costumes, textures and detail of the picture is phenomenal, it’s what BD was made for! The Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra ensure the soundtrack’s epic, making the BD a must see. There’s a few spells of trippy visuals and the story won’t be for absolutely everyone but I would encourage anybody to give this a shot. Reining in my initial score from a 9.5 to an 8, although the first viewing DID blow me away that much.

Score: 8/10

Original Review

Kaispace: Films you didn’t know you needed to see