REVIEW: GLADIATOR

CAST

Russell Crowe (Man of STeel)
Joaquin Phoenix (Quills)
Connie Nielsen (Basic)
Oliver Reed (Tommy)
Richard Harris (Unforgiven)
Derek Jacobi (The King’s Speech)
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
Ralf Moeller (The Scorpion King)
Spencer Treat Clark (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
David Hemmings (Deep Red)
Tommy Flanagan (Sin City)

In AD 180, Hispano-Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius leads the Roman army to a decisive victory against the Germanic tribes near Vindobona on the northern frontier. Now weary of battle, Maximus only desires to retire to his Spanish farm estate. But Emperor Marcus Aurelius tells him that his own son and heir, Commodus, is unfit to rule and that he will appoint Maximus as regent to help save Rome from corruption. When the Emperor reveals his plan to his son, Commodus murders him in a fit of rage.Commodus announces he is the new Emperor and asks Maximus for his loyalty. When the general refuses, he is arrested by his officers and is sentenced to death at dawn. Maximus kills his captors and rides for his farm. However, he arrives too late, and finds it destroyed and his family murdered, by Commodus’ orders. Maximus buries his wife and son, and then collapses from his wounds and grief. He is found by slavers who take him to Zucchabar, a colonia in the Roman North African province of Mauretania Caesariensis, where he is sold to a lanista (gladiator trainer) named Proximo.Although reluctant at first, Maximus fights in local tournaments and makes friends with two other gladiators: Juba, a Numidian who holds onto Maximus’s figurines of his wife and child, and Hagen, a German. As he wins every match because of his military skills and indifference to death, he gains fame and recognition. But Proximo, who reveals that he himself was once a gladiator who fought well enough to be given his freedom, advises Maximus that being a good killer is not enough; a good gladiator is one who can “win the crowd”. Proximo encourages Maximus to go to Rome and fight in the Colosseum, because Commodus has organized 150 days of games. He could then use the power he commands in the arena as leverage against the Emperor.Maximus’ first gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum is a re-enactment of the Roman victory over Carthage at the Battle of Zama. Although the gladiators (portraying the Carthaginians) are expected to be massacred, Maximus leads them to victory over the legionaries of Scipio Africanus. This prompts a surprised and delighted Commodus to enter the arena to offer his personal congratulations. When the emperor’s young nephew, Lucius, also joins them, Maximus decides not to kill Commodus. Instead he reveals himself and vows to have vengeance. The Praetorian Guard is ordered to attack but this angers the crowd. Under pressure to keep the mob of Rome happy, Commodus angrily relents.Maximus’ next fight is a victory against a large undefeated gladiator. Despite Commodus’s orders to kill the loser, Maximus spares his defeated opponent’s life. This defiance earns him the nickname “Maximus the Merciful” and more cheers of adulation. Angered at this outcome, Commodus enters the arena to taunt Maximus about his family’s death. But the gladiator turns his back and walks away, another defiant act that is making him more popular than the Emperor. Maximus discovers from Cicero, his ex-orderly, that his former legions remain loyal. Lucilla, Commodus’ sister, and Gracchus, from the Senate, meet secretly with Maximus. He obtains their promise to help him escape Rome, rejoin his soldiers, topple Commodus by force, and hand power back to the Roman Senate. However, Commodus learns of the plot from Lucilla by threatening her son Lucius. The Praetorian Guard arrest Gracchus while others are sent to the gladiators’ barracks. Maximus escapes after Proximo and his men (including Hagen) sacrifice themselves. But at the rendezvous point, Maximus is captured and Cicero is killed.To win the crowd back, Commodus challenges Maximus to a duel in the Colosseum. However, he secretly stabs Maximus in the side before the match to gain an advantage. Nevertheless Maximus eventually disarms Commodus during their duel. When his Praetorian Guards refuse to give him another sword, the emperor tricks Maximus into disarming and produces a hidden knife, but Maximus drives the blade back into Commodus’s throat. Maximus, however, succumbs to his wounds shortly thereafter.Maximus’s last words are to ask for political reforms, for his gladiator allies to be freed, and for Senator Gracchus to be reinstated. While the body of Commodus is left unceremoniously on the floor of the arena, Maximus is solemnly carried away by his friends and allies to be given an honorable funeral as a “soldier of Rome”. The crowd stands as a sign of respect as Maximus is carried out. Later, a now-free Juba revisits the Colosseum at night. He buries the figurines of Maximus’ wife and son at the spot where he died. He says he is now going back to his own family and promises to see Maximus again, “but not yet”.It’s true that this movie does pretty much follow the Braveheart formula. However, this movie includes some elements, such as the cinematography and the incredibly graphic battle scenes that are spectacular in itself. Overall, a great movie that I highly recommend.

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REVIEW: GULLIVER’S TRAVEL (1977)

 

CAST

Richard Harris (Gladiator)
Catherime Schell (Space 1999)
Julian Glover (Game of Thrones)

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4Lemuel Gulliver (Richard Harris) is a brilliant medical student living in 17th Century Bristol. His father (Norman Shelley) wants him to go to London to make his fortune; but Gulliver prefers the idea of receiving rather less pay but a heck of a lot more adventure as a ship’s surgeon aboard a ship called the ‘Antelope’. During a voyage, the ‘Antelope’ is blown off course during a storm and hits a reef. The ship sinks and everyone is lost, apart from Gulliver…. who finds himself washed ashore in the kingdom of Lilliput. When he comes round, Gulliver finds that the strange land where he has washed ashore is populated by incredibly small humans, no taller than his toe. To them, he looks like a giant. They persuade Gulliver to help them in a war against another race of tiny people who live on an adjacent island. But Gulliver doesn’t like being manipulated for purposes of war and devastation, so he makes plans to escape….

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Harris is left to carry the entire film here. His first couple of scenes involve other actors, but once he is shipwrecked in Lilliput he spends the rest of the film striding over knee-high sets and acting alongside his animated counterparts. The idea of mixing live action and animation was not new at the time, but it certainly hadn’t been done a lot.

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A few Disney movies like Song Of The South, So Dear To My Heart and Pete’s Dragon had tampered with the idea, but it was still pretty much in its infancy. “Gulliver’s Travels” is not an especially well-animated film, but the scenes showing interaction between Harris and his cartoon co-stars are at least competently done. Occasionally the film tries to be true to its satirical origins . But at its heart, this is very much a kids’ film and the satirical overtones are barely dwelled upon. a nice old fashioned kids movie

REVIEW: HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

 

CAST

Daniel Radcliffe (Horns)
Rupert Grint (Cherrybomb)
Emma Watson (This Is The End)
Kenneth Branagh (Dead Again)
John Cleese (Rat Race)
Robbie Coltrane (Flash Gordon)
Warwick Davis (Leprechaun)
Richard Griffiths (Sleepy Hollow)
Richard Harris (Gladiator)
Alan Rickman (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Fiona Shaw (Jane Eyre)
Maggie Smith (Clash of The Titans)
Julie Walters (Brooklyn)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Bonnie Wright (Before I Sleep)
Mark Williams (Agent Cody Banks 2)
Tom Felton (The Flash)
Jason Isaacs (Peter Pan)
Matthew Lewis (Happy Valley)
David Bradley (Game of Thrones)
Julian Glover (Game of Thrones)

Harry Potter spends the summer without receiving letters from his Hogwarts friends. In his room, Harry meets Dobby, a house-elf who warns him bad things will happen if he returns to Hogwarts, and reveals he intercepted his friends’ letters. Harry chases him downstairs, where Dobby destroys a cake. The Dursleys lock Harry up, but Ron, Fred and George Weasley rescue him in their father’s flying Ford Anglia.

While buying school supplies, Harry and the Weasley family encounter Rubeus Hagrid and Hermione Granger, and they attend a book-signing by celebrity wizard Gilderoy Lockhart, who announces he will be the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry also encounters Draco Malfoy and his father Lucius, who slips a book in Ginny Weasley’s belongings. When Harry and Ron are blocked from entering Platform Nine and Three-Quarters (later revealed to be Dobby’s doing), they fly to Hogwarts in the Ford Anglia and crash into the hostile Whomping Willow. Ron’s wand is damaged, and the car throws them out before driving off. They are allowed back into school but face detention.

While serving detention with Lockhart, Harry hears strange voices and later finds caretaker Argus Filch’s cat, Mrs. Norris, petrified, and a message written in blood announcing the “Chamber of Secrets has been opened, Enemies of the Heir, beware”. Professor McGonagall explains that one of Hogwarts’ founders, Salazar Slytherin, supposedly constructed a secret Chamber and placed inside it a monster that only his Heir can control, to purge the school of impure-blooded wizards and witches. More attacks occur over the course of the year. Harry and Ron suspect Malfoy is the Heir, so Hermione suggests they question him while disguised using polyjuice potion. Their makeshift laboratory is in a disused bathroom haunted by a ghost, Moaning Myrtle.

When Harry communicates with a snake (something Salazar Slytherin could do) the school suspects him as the Heir. At Christmas, Harry and Ron learn that Malfoy is not the Heir, but he mentions that a girl died when the Chamber was last opened fifty years ago. Harry finds an enchanted diary, owned by a former student named Tom Riddle, which shows him a flashback to fifty years before, where Riddle accused Hagrid, then a student, of opening the Chamber. When the diary disappears and Hermione is petrified, Harry and Ron question Hagrid. Professor Dumbledore, Cornelius Fudge, and Lucius Malfoy come to take Hagrid to Azkaban, but he discreetly tells the boys to “follow the spiders”. Lucius has Dumbledore suspended. In the Forbidden Forest, Harry and Ron find Aragog, a giant spider who reveals Hagrid’s innocence and that the dead girl was found in a bathroom. Aragog then sets his colony of Acromantula on the boys, but the now-wild Ford Anglia saves them.

A book page in Hermione’s hand identifies the monster is a basilisk, a giant serpent that instantly kills those who make direct eye contact with it; the petrified victims saw it indirectly. The school staff learn that Ginny was taken into the Chamber, and convince Lockhart to save her. Harry and Ron find Lockhart, exposed as a fraud, planning to flee; knowing Myrtle was the girl the Basilisk killed, they drag him to her bathroom and find the Chamber’s entrance. Once inside, Lockhart uses Ron’s damaged wand against them, but it backfires, wiping his memory, and causes a cave-in.

Harry enters the Chamber alone and finds Ginny unconscious and dying guarded by Tom Riddle. Harry realises Riddle is the Heir and he used the diary to manipulate Ginny and reopen the Chamber. Riddle then reveals his full name, Tom Marvolo Riddle, from which he created the anagram for his future new identity, “I am Lord Voldemort”. After Harry expresses support for Dumbledore, Dumbledore’s Fawkes flies in with the Sorting Hat, and Riddle summons the Basilisk. Fawkes blinds the Basilisk, and the Sorting Hat eventually produces a sword with which Harry battles and slays the Basilisk, but he is poisoned by its fangs.

Harry defeats Riddle and revives Ginny by stabbing the diary with a basilisk fang. Fawkes’ tears heal him, and he returns to Hogwarts with his friends and a baffled Lockhart. Dumbledore, reinstated as headmaster, praises them and orders for Hagrid’s release. Dumbledore shows Harry that the sword he wielded was Godric Gryffindor’s own sword, and says he is different from Voldemort because he chose Gryffindor House instead of Slytherin House. Harry accuses Lucius, Dobby’s master, of putting the diary in Ginny’s cauldron and tricks him into freeing Dobby. The Basilisk’s victims are healed, Hermione reunites with Harry and Ron, and Hagrid returns.

The movie sticks closely to the novel, but as in the last movie we miss some of those scenes where we start to learn a little more about the characters, especially the hate-hate relationship between Harry and Professor Snape. All in all it’s definitely worth checking out, the running time of 160 minutes may seem a little long but it doesn’t seem that long when you’re watching it.

REVIEW: HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE

CAST

Daniel Radcliffe (Horns)
Rupert Grint (Cherrybomb)
Emma Watson (This Is The End)
John Cleese (Rat Race)
Robbie Coltrane (Flash Gordon)
Warwick Davis (Leprechaun)
Richard Griffiths (Sleepy Hollow)
Richard Harris (Gladiator)
Ian Hart (Finding Neverland)
John Hurt (Hellboy)
Alan Rickman (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Fiona Shaw (Jane Eyre)
Maggie Smith (Clash of The Titans)
Julie Walters (Brooklyn)
Verne Troyer (Jack of All Trades)
Bonnie Wright (Before I Sleep)
Matthew Lewis (Happy Valley)
Tom Felton (The Flash)
David Bradley (Game of Thrones)

Harry Potter is a seemingly ordinary boy, living with his neglectful relatives the Dursleys, in Surrey, England. On his eleventh birthday Harry discovers from a mysterious stranger, Rubeus Hagrid, that he is actually a wizard, famous in the Wizarding World for surviving an attack by the evil Lord Voldemort when Harry was only a baby. Voldemort killed Harry’s parents, but his attack on Harry rebounded leaving only a lightning-bolt scar on Harry’s forehead and rendering Voldemort powerless. Hagrid reveals to Harry that he has been invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. After buying his school supplies from the hidden London street, Diagon Alley, Harry boards the train to Hogwarts via the concealed Platform 9¾ in King’s Cross Station.

On the train Harry meets Ron Weasley, a boy from a large but poor pure-blood wizarding family, and Hermione Granger, a witch born to non-magical parents. Once they arrive Harry and all the other first-year students are sorted between four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Because Slytherin is noted for being the house of darker wizards and witches, Harry convinces the Sorting Hat not to put him in Slytherin. He ends up in Gryffindor along with Ron and Hermione. Ron’s older brothers were all placed in Gryffindor as well: mischievous twins Fred and George, Percy the prefect, Charlie (who researches dragons in Romania) and Bill (who works for Gringotts Bank).

At Hogwarts Harry begins learning wizardry and discovers more about his past and his parents. He gets recruited for Gryffindor’s Quidditch (a sport in the wizarding world where people fly on broomsticks) team as a Seeker, as his father was before him. One night he, Ron, and Hermione discover a large three-headed dog named Fluffy (owned by Hagrid) on a restricted floor in the school. They later find out Fluffy is guarding the Philosopher’s Stone, an item that can be used to grant its owner immortality. Harry concludes that his potions teacher, the unfriendly Severus Snape, is trying to obtain the stone in order to return Voldemort (who Harry encounters in the Forbidden Forest where he, Ron, Hermione, and Draco Malfoy are serving detention by helping Hagrid look for an injured unicorn after being caught wandering around at night) to a human form.
After hearing from Hagrid that Fluffy will fall asleep if played music, Harry, Ron and Hermione decide to find the stone before Snape does. They face a series of tasks that are helping guard the stone which include surviving a deadly plant known as Devil’s Snare, flying past a swarm of bird-shaped flying keys and winning a dangerous, life-sized chess game.
After getting past the tasks Harry discovers that it was really Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Professor Quirrell who was trying to steal the stone, and that Snape was protecting Harry all along. Quirrell removes his turban and reveals Voldemort to be living on the back of his head. Voldemort attempts to convince Harry to give him the stone (which Harry suddenly finds in his pocket as the result of an enchantment by the headmaster, Albus Dumbledore), by promising to bring his parents back from the dead, but Harry refuses. Quirrell attempts to kill him but Harry’s touch prevents Quirrell from hurting Harry and causes his hand to turn to dust. Quirrell then attempts to take the stone but Harry grabs his face causing Quirrell to turn into dust and die. When Harry gets up Voldemort’s spirit forms and passes through Harry knocking him unconscious before fleeing.
Harry wakes up in the school’s hospital wing with Professor Dumbledore at his side. Dumbledore explains that the stone has been destroyed and that, despite Ron nearly being killed in the chess match, he and Hermione are both fine. The reason Quirrell burned at Harry’s touch was because when Harry’s mother died to save him her death gave Harry a magical, love-based protection against Voldemort. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are rewarded with house points for their heroic performances, and Neville Longbottom is rewarded for bravely standing up to them, winning Gryffindor the House Cup. Before Harry and the rest of the students leave for the summer, Harry realises that while all other students are going home, Hogwarts is truly his home.The feel of the whole movie is everything fans could have hoped for. The dialogue is intensely measured, the colouring is suitably epic, the selection of what to leave in is really tightly considered.  It’s clear that the production have thought long, hard and lovingly. They are true fans of the story, they are the right people for the job.