Monday, October 25, 2010

DVD: Hunt To Kill

Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

Directed by Keoni Waxman
Written by Frank Hannah
Starring Steve Austin, Gil Bellows, Gary Daniels, Michael Eklund, Emilie Ullerup, Marie Avgeropoulos

Much like most of the movies starring American wrestling superstar "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, although you might expect otherwise, his acting skill is not the biggest problem.

The movie follows a well-worn plot that has been the subject of many actions movies before this one. The star is made to guide a group of criminals through rough terrain because they are dragging his daughter along for the journey at gunpoint. Simple enough and everyone knows it's only a matter of time (approximately 75% of the movie's length) before he starts killing them one by one in imaginative ways which befit his character (if we're lucky). And it plays out more or less as you would expect, right down to people who we're meant to assume are dead getting back up for another round. Why throw out one action movie tradition when you've touched upon all of the rest? At least there's no token love interest.

As for the acting, such that it is, Eric Roberts makes an all-too-brief cameo in the opening few minute which sadly stands as the best turn of the movie. Emilie Ullerup somehow manages to be worse as one of the criminals than she is as Ashley in sci-fi series 'Sanctuary', Marie Avgeropoulos is so obviously too old to be playing Austin's teenage daughter Kim that she can never make "Daddy" ring true, and why British-born kick boxer-turned-action star Gary Daniels quite feels the need to over-do his English accent is a mystery. Presumably director Keoni Waxman thought his normal voice was too subtle for American audiences to realise he was English.

One thing Austin can never be faulted for in his acting is his effort. He always seems to try hard despite being in a string of low-budget, badly scripted action-by-numbers DVD releases. Besides Austin's admirable efforts the only real acting going on comes from Gil Bellows as murderous leader Banks, but his script is truly dreadful at times, and the ever-eccentric Michael Eklund as tech geek Geary. In both cases though they're forced to over act in the majority of their scenes, especially Bellows.

Like Austin's other recent DVD release 'The Stranger', 'Hunt To Kill' is watchable on one of those lazy evenings when you just want to watch something without having to think too hard, and since no one involved in writing this movie did, it stands to reason that you don't have to either. There are better, there are worse, take it for what it is.

“ low-budget, badly scripted action-by-numbers ”

Special Features: None.

DVD Release Date: October 11, 2010
Studio: NGN Productions
Feature Running Time: 93 mins
Certificate: 15
Language(s): English
Subtitles: None
Other Format(s): Blu-Ray

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chasing Time

Following the usual well-publicised disasters on the current Guns N' Roses European tour, including leaving the stage after only a handful of songs when fans threw bottles at the band in Dublin, the band's outstanding UK comeback show at the O2 Arena in London on October 13 highlighted yet another fickle habit of the British public: invalidating their own reason to complain, then feeling they're entitled to complain anyway.

There's no denying, even for the most ardent fan of the band, that leader Axl Rose's continued disrespectful attitude towards fans regarding the time of his arrival on stage and subsequent end time of the show is the biggest problem with trying to see the band play live. And those who attend the shows, although for the most part in no way condoning his behaviour, accept that there is the very likely possibility that the show will finish after local public transport has ceased for the night, and there may be a substantial waiting period between the end of the support act's set and GN'R's.

Venues try their best to accommodate the situation, in the O2's case including publishing a three-page document outlining the additional contingency travel arrangements they had put in place for the benefit of ticket holders should the show inevitably over-run the planned schedule. There's not much more they can do beyond contractually obligating Axl to arrive on time and play to the show times they've outlined. On the surface that would seem like the most prudent option, but in reality I think it's almost a certainty Rose would never sign such an agreement and would simply play a venue where he isn't so restricted.

What it basically comes down to, from the fans point of view, is common sense. As most things tend to. The band will start late and end late. That is the only assumption it is safe working with when planning attendance at a show. With that in mind, you either buy a ticket knowing that's going to happen and plan accordingly, or you don't go. By attending, knowing full well it's going to be a late night, you have absolutely no right to complain when it turns out to actually be a late night.

There's an argument put forward by the most accepting fans along the lines "if you're worried about getting home you're in the wrong place", which is obviously nonsense; it doesn't matter how much you love the band, you still don't want to be wandering the streets until 5am when you can get a train home again. In actual fact if you're worried about getting home, sort yourself out a back-up plan that doesn't rely on leaving early for the last train, or don't come. It's a hard decision to have to make if you do want to see the band, but the only way the band will learn is if no one shows up for the show, so turning up anyway and then complaining about it is ridiculous.

But this is just another example of so many people's attitudes to this kind of thing. When artists like Madonna charge over £100 for tickets people complain, but the concert still sells out. As far as Madonna and her people are concerned, they can get away with charging £100 for a ticket. So next time she's going to do exactly the same thing.

It would seem that England in 2010 can't bear to vote with their feet. Apparently nothing in entertainment is unacceptable, because we're all going to turn up anyway. We might moan about it on the radio or the internet afterwards, but only after the damage has been done and the people responsible have not only gotten away with exploiting the paying public's good will, they've done it with the belief they'll be able to do it again because as far as they can tell we were all happy to show up.

This generally only happens with large-scale events, and the large contingent of people who aren't really fans but want to be able to say "I was there" whenever the subject of any major event is raised doesn't help matters. This was evident last night when thousands of people in the capacity crowd barely got involved in the show at all apart from during radio hits 'Sweet Child O' Mine' and 'Paradise City'. Enjoyment of the new material versus the old material aside, if there are people there who don't even know the other songs from the album those two singles come from, or even the other singles, then those are the people who are in the wrong place. But they can now say "I was there" and feel they have the right to complain about Axl's behaviour. They're a bigger problem than the fans who do that. At least the fans turned up because they wanted to see their favourite band. At least their reason for putting up with it was valid.

We want it both ways all the time and have lost sight of the fact that we simply can't have it. All the complainers are achieving nothing now. We will all win if we don't buy the tickets to these things. But once we've bought them, we lost long before the show even took place.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

DVD: The Stranger

Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

Directed by Robert Lieberman
Written by Quinn Scott
Starring Steve Austin, Adam Beach, Erica Cerra, Ron Lea

It's very easy to start 'The Stranger' with the assumption that it will be low-budget-terrible. Firstly, it's a straight-to-DVD action movie, and good ones of those are very rare. Secondly the lead is professional wrestling star "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Again, an actor who has crossed over from another entertainment profession who can actually act is rare. Lastly, no other actor is mentioned on the cover, meaning there's no one in the movie significant enough to be noted alongside Austin.

However, basing assessment of the quality of this movie on Austin's ability is grossly unfair. Given a dreadful script, appalling supporting actors (particularly Adam Beach) and cinematography reminiscent of a student film club project, Austin's performance is remarkable. He holds his own amongst a legion of amateurs behind and in front of the camera and although the plot isn't as original as it tries to claim it is watchable, building to the inevitable conclusion seen hundreds of times before.

There's not enough here to give the movie a good rating, which Austin almost deserves for holding the whole thing together against the odds, and it's therefore difficult to recommend this to anyone except Austin fans who will enjoy seeing him put in a good turn. It has to be said though, if you're looking for a bit of no-brain action entertainment, there are better movies out there.

“ a legion of amateurs behind and in front of the camera ”

Special Features: The Stranger: Behind The Scenes / Trailer

DVD Release Date: August 9, 2010
Studio: NGN Productions
Feature Running Time: 87 mins
Special Features Running Time: 7 mins
Certificate: 15
Language(s): English
Subtitles: None
Other Format(s): Blu-Ray

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Alan Pearce - Who's Side Are They On?

Gibson Square Books Ltd.

For Alan Pearce to say he wrote this book could be a case for trading standards. All this is, really, all this is, is a collection of Daily Mail-worthy sidebars about things that have happened to people. All one-off, all unusual in some way, and all collected with the blatant attempt to try to prove that Government and authority are against us rather than with us.

There's no doubt that in certain areas the police, the government, and so on do things to benefit themselves, but this book challenges none of them. Nothing in here indicates a trend in behaviour, any particular policies, or holds any other semblance of proof or integrity. One person, in one small local area, wronged by one police officer does not mean the entire force is crooked. Amusing little anecdote it may be, but the point of this book was meant to be to demonstrate the PC-fueled decline of the country, and it doesn't do that any better than the Daily Star does.

And if it weren't bad enough that none of the material here is at all indicative of the state of the nation, the "author" hasn't even bothered writing anything. Everything here has been lifted from other sources. Maybe re-edited a little, but all the same it's a collection of clippings, not a book.

No political, social or economic commentary, no analysis, not even any satire. Just a cut-and-paste job of dumbed-down, lowest-common-denomenator stuff at its most blatant... and one look at the Amazon product page for this book will demonstrate all the people it's fooled so far. At least the author and publisher can collectively claim their little con-job worked!

“ a collection of clippings, not a book ”

First Hardback Publication Date: November 3, 2009
First Paperback Publication Date: N/A
Publisher: Gibson Square Books Ltd.
Pages: 224
Language(s): English