The Condemned: ten of the toughest death-row prisoners from around the world are dumped on a remote island for 30 hours – the last person standing wins their freedom. Sound familiar? The plot is essentially Battle Royale, right down to the explosive jewelry. Leading man “Stone Cold” Steve Austinis pretty stale, but as an ex-wrestler, expectations weren’t massive – I can’t believe there’s not a single stone cold stunner, fan-appeasement FAIL! Vinnie Jones (and most other people) are laughably typecast and/or wooden, 2D, flat characters. A few other things to mention: lots of bad RAWK / Nu Metal songs; a piss-weak attempt to add a morality angle to the story; and some forced lines about kewl stuff like the internetz, bloggerz, and gamerz!!! The only real positive is that because it’s a WWE and Lionsgate film, the bad taste / violence etc is more than you’d expect. As a brain off, mindless, plotless, characterless, action film, The Condemned is alright – but there’s absolutely nothing that stays with you after the fireworks.
Spartacus Blood and tits Sand: 150% testosterone-fueled 13-part swords and sandals epic – It’s essentially what would happen if the cast of 300 violated the story and actresses of BBC‘s Rome. I’ll get the controversial stuff out of the way first. Violence, there’s literally GCI bucketloads of flying limbs, heads, blood and teeth every time someone grabs a weapon – most memorable; a gladiator cuts a dead opponent’s face off and wears it as a mask in his next fight – awesome… just awesome. Secondly, Spartacus is a celebration of Skin; it’s a conveyor belt of gratuitous Spartan chests, fake and real breasts, naked men fighting, women getting rammed, guys getting tugged off and gay gladiators bumming each other – most memorable; Lucy “Xena Warrior Princess” Lawless getting her gobstoppers out! Thirdly, the Dialogue sounds like 20 drunk sailors sat at a whiteboard and played the ‘best insult ever’ competition – some of the combinations are so imaginative and foul that they even impressed this sweary Scotsman. Controversy aside the actually story is so, so epic, and nowhere as linear or predictable as you’d expect – it twists and turns right to the last scene with endless betrayals, story developments and murders. The acting is also startlingly good given that there’s very few big names, so many characters, and everyone falls into either i) meat-head gladiators (for action) ii) sexed-up women (for skin) or iii) slimy political figures (for progressing the story). Other than a couple of slower episodes Spartacus is an absolute hit, that gets better as the series progresses: my lady even went from “this is so ridiculous” to a total convert, no mean feat for a series aimed at 15 year old boys! When the show works, it totally works – and if you can see past the gratuitous violence, skin and language – at the heart of Spartacus lies a compelling, well-written and well-executed story. Brilliant mix of drama, action and trash!