Top 100 Action Movies – 300

Strangely, this is the first time I’ve sat and watched ‘300‘, despite it being released in 2006. I’ve seen and heard the memes, and I’ve even seen the really bad spoof movie ‘Meet the Spartans’ that no doubts heavily riffs on this. I’m familiar with Frank Miller’s work too and enjoyed ‘Sin City‘ & ‘Watchmen‘, I can live with or without Zack Snyder movies, the only one I can remember really enjoying was his remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead‘.

The first thing I couldn’t help but notice was just how British this movie is; Gerard Butler, as King Leonidas; Lena Headey, as Queen Gorgo; Dominic West, as Theron; and Peter Mensah, as the messenger all appearing within the first 10 minutes. I always get a nice surprise seeing British people in movies I wouldn’t expect to see them in… granted Gerard Butler is the lead actor, but whatever. Actually, while I’m talking about Gerard Butler I always have a hard time believing him in these badass heroes roles like ‘Olympus Has Fallen‘ and ‘London Has Fallen‘. Yet, seemingly that’s what he is – an action hero. He just seems too nice to be one. Like there’s this aura of niceness that just glows warmly from him, where he’s more likely to give you a cup of tea rather than a bullet to the knee. Maybe that’s just me.

With 300 based on Sparta’s stand against Persia, and taken from the works of Frank Miller’s graphic novel series I was expecting this to be exciting. The battles are graphic and bloody but beyond that this movie is pretty boring, which now I think about it I often feel this way watching Snyder’s movies: Batman v Superman, Man of Steel, and even at times Watchmen. There’s just nothing interesting holding the action together, just a bunch of long drawn out speeches against a grim backdrop. One of the most memorable moments in the entire movie happens within the first 15 minutes.
Ubisoft’s ‘Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey‘ was released in 2018, it manages to keep the characters interesting and the dialogue fast while skirting around the same events.

While the action itself is fun at first, the long drawn out slow motion and panning started to detract from what I felt were rather intense moments. Sure it made the battles seem almost dance like at times, and highlighted how skilled the Spartans were, but it overstayed its welcome.
I don’t know, I was just expecting something more.


Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

I’m going to be upfront – I don’t know much about Captain Marvel. They haven’t appeared much in the Marvel Chronological Reading Order, yet. I’m around 1974 in the reading order and Captain Mar-vell is still in their original form (sort of), trapped in the negative zone and attached to the most evil entity in the entire universe – Rick Jones.
Rick isn’t really evil, I just don’t like him. He was attached to the Hulk first of all, then the Teen Brigade trying to help the Avengers, then he ditched those to pretend to be Bucky and Captain America’s sidekick, and then eventually left Captain America after finding the cosmic ‘nega-bands’ that contained the power of Captain Mar-vell. Thankfully, Rick Jones does not appear in Captain Marvel in anyway.

Carol Denvars has appeared briefly in the comics at this point, as the head of security at the Air Force Base that Mar-vel ‘works’ at in his disguised form of ‘Walter Lawson’. She gets the feeling that there’s something not right about Lawson and investigates and ends up seriously injured in a blast caused by a Kree device.
So, there’s some loose connections to the comic lore from what I understand already, but let’s be honest here – the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is interesting because of its lose connection to the established lore. The way it mixes features from the Ultimate timeline and 616-Universe (the ‘Main’ comic universe) has always been fun to me, and makes the movies their own universe.

Anyway, the movie’s Captain Marvel is fun. Brie Larson is fun. It felt like the movie was at full throttle from the moment it started, with only the briefest of pit stops. I enjoyed the mix of Space Opera and Earth drama, it finally felt like the MCU was starting to show the conflict and fallout throughout the universe only briefly hinted at throughout its 10 years.
Thor, and Avengers gave us glimpse of the Cosmic elements of Marvel, with Guardians of the Galaxy giving us a larger view with the introduction of the Kree (all the while hinting, name dropping and building up the reputation of Thanos). Yet, the larger Cosmic events always felt like a backdrop to the story being told, with little to no consequences of wider actions being shown or talked about. The stories always centred on the characters, as you’d expect in a movie about superheroes. Thor, rightfully focused on Thor and his relationship with both Loki and Odin; Guardians of the Galaxy focused on a band of characters, and also managed to show Ronin the Accuser’s desire for greater power (which in hindsight might have been driven by the events he witnessed in Captain Marvel). However, I wouldn’t say either film established a true power struggle, or fallout from the actions seen.
Captain Marvel does. It further establishes the Kree and introduces the Skrull, and manages to show the struggle for power and the feeling of desperation happening on the Cosmic level.

The opening act establishes Captain Marvel as part of a covert Kree team, desperately trying to rescue one of their contacts that holds information vital to the safety of the Kree Empire from the vile, deadly Skrull looking to wipe them out. It plays on Marvel’s ‘inability’ to control her emotions, and because of that her powers, it introduces the Skrull as masters of impersonation due to their shapeshifting abilities — yet all the while it has wonderful undertones of what is to come throughout the movie.
The loose Jean Le Carre-esque undertones of ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’ played on my mind early on – just who did I trust. The Skrull? The Kree? Was Captain Marvel a Kree? Was she a Skrull? Was she human?
I went into the movie with little-to-no media knowledge, I like to avoid trailers for movies I want to see, as I often feel trailers show too much now. Yet, thankfully, Marvel tend to digitally alter their trailers to omit details, and frame them in such a way to present an alternative story.

The action shifts to Earth, with Captain Marvel crash landing into a Blockbusters – instantly establishing it is the 90s! I liked this entire scene, especially the interaction with the rent-a-cop that has witnessed it all. It instantly shows you just how out of touch Earth is with everything going on across the Galaxy. The way Marvel assumes the security guard will know what she’s talking about, and understand the protocols, meanwhile the security guard is sitting there in the car with mouth wide open.
Remember, this is the 90s. Iron Man hasn’t happened. New York hasn’t been invaded by the Chitauri. Everything is normal, as normal as can be.
The ‘Men in Black’ arrival of SHIELD was wonderful, too. The CGI on Coulson’s face, not as much. Yet, Fury’s face never bothered me once – I’m sure there was a Pulp Fiction reference with the car. Maybe.
The CGI is perhaps the biggest flaw in the movie, there are times where it is so poor it pulled me out of my little suspension of disbelief bubble. It was usually notable during the moments where Captain Marvel was in full flow power mode and the would be slow motion pans around her.

Anyway, the Skrull’s ability to infiltrate is explored fully, and executed well enough to leave me wondering just who might be a Skrull. The slicing of Marvel’s flashback scenes, dropping in just enough detail and changing detail, were enough to keep me wondering who’s side she was on.
The interactions between Fury and Marvel, and the building of trust, further plays into the Jean Le Carre elements of the movie, and there’s even some crude spy techniques used by Fury that left me wanting Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD Movie at some point. I don’t think we’ll ever see one, but hey. Meanwhile, Captain Marvel is unashamed of her alien heritage and superpowers, openly brash about it, freely using them whenever. I loved this. Why not use those powers – there’s even a scene later where Captain Marvel goes full on Star Wars trench fighter mode.
Yet, the movie explores Marvel’s past and questions what is reality and what was planted in her memory. I enjoyed watching Marvel explore for clues and piece bits of her previous life together, slowly uncovering the secrets. This is an origin movie that is fragmented enough to not be an origin movie – and I love that.

Overall this is a fun, action-packed movie that blends the intrigue of a spy movie with the romp of a space opera. It is a perfect standalone movie, and probably the best place to start watching the MCU if you’ve somehow managed to not see any of the previous 20 movies over the last 10 years.

I don’t want to say too much about the overall plot and events within the movie, as I enjoyed the wonder of just who was who. Yet, there is one question that I know some will be asking: Why didn’t Fury use Captain Marvel from the start?

She was too busy saving the galaxy.

(Slight spoilers – this is a review after all)
Without a doubt Captain Marvel is the most powerful hero in the Galaxy, the film does well to establish this. Her powers can repel fleets, so much so that Ronin the Accuser flees (and probably seeks out Thanos and greater power for protection). She has helped the Kree destroy and damage the Skrulls, after being brainwashed and controlled by the Kree to do so. It’s fitting that Marvel feels a need to leave Earth and correct that – that’s what Heroes do.
She even tells Fury that the pager is ‘only for emergencies’, and we know Fury starts the Avengers Protocol shortly after Marvel leaves. He begins to prepare Earth for what’s out there, knowing that Marvel isn’t around to protect Earth. His Avengers manage to save Earth a number of times, before Thanos ultimately snaps his fingers, which leads Fury to snap his own and recall Captain Marvel.

I’m hyped for End Game now. I believe in the power of Captain Marvel as a game changer, the movie establishes that well. While it may not move the greater overarching story of the MCU at all, it does introduce us to Captain Marvel and just what she can do. Was this the event that Doctor Strange saw? Did he see that ultimately he had to let Thanos ‘win’, so Fury would call in Captain Marvel? Is Captain Marvel the only power in the Cosmos to compete against Thanos and the Infinity stones?

I can’t wait to find out.

Wrestling

I like wrestling.

As I sit here thinking of what to write about for the opening post of what is little more than a personal blog of thoughts and consciousness ‘wrestling’ seemed to be the natural choice. My first memories of wrestling are of World of Sport on ITV in the late 80s, and of Pat Sharp introducing highlight clips of World Championship Wrestling on the long-forgotten ‘kids’ TV show ‘What’s up Doc?’ in the early 90s.

Over the road from my Nanas lived Alan, who I can probably say made me aware of World Wrestling Federation as he was collecting stickers for the sticker album at the time, and I remember being amazed at the jigsaw like multisticker portraits on the page. He also had Survivor Series 1989 on VHS, which we must have watched nearly everyday.

I never really had a direct source to wrestling as a child, it was always something I would catch here and there, and be utterly fascinated by. The clips on ‘What’s up Doc?’ where often fleeting and little more than a few minutes long showing mainly focused on Sting and Ric Flair. There’s only so many times you can watch the same VHS tape over and over again before wanting more. Of all the places I was able to get to see more wrestling was at my step-dad’s parents house – they had Sky. I feel like it was by accident I found it the first time, and I have this vague images of 1-2-3 Kid and Doink the Clown, Man on a Mission and Diesel, more than anyone else.

My step-dad’s parents were very religious, if you were to ask me to describe what I remember of them it would be two evil as hell Siamese cats, a small version of Lassie the dog, foul gooseberry bushes in the back garden, a piano in the dining room, a whole host of Esop’s Fables Books for Children, and WWF. They were the people that would look after me on occasional Sundays, take me to Sunday School, and then I’d sit around waiting until it was time to go home. It wasn’t a terrible thing, I discovered early about religion, and that I didn’t really understand the faith element of it, and the ability to swiftly cruise through endless channels hoping to find some wrestling to watch.
Looking back it’s funny to think what my grandparents must have been thinking as I watched The Undertaker try to bury Yokozona, and this evil clown Doink causing havoc. Yet, they never said I couldn’t watch it.

It wasn’t until my Nana, who I spent most of my time with growing up, agreed to get Telewest (which would later become NTL and then Virgin Media) cable installed that I finally had access to constant source of wrestling. We didn’t have Sky Sports, but we had Sky 1 and more importantly… TNT. It must have been the summer of 1996 when it was installed, I remember Euro ’96 and crying on the couch when England were knocked out on penalties (and my Nana laughing at me) and I remember discovering that Monday Night Nitro was shown at 9pm on a FRIDAY when Cartoon Network became TNT. The lead-in was Space Ghost Coast-2-Coast and then from 9pm there was 5 hours of WCW with Nitro turning into Thunder.
I didn’t know then that this would be the start of the Monday Night Wars (or in our case the Friday Night Wars), and what might just be the ‘GREATEST EVENT IN THE HISTORY OF OUR SPORT!’. Once Friday was over it was time to watch WWF on Sky 1 with ‘WWF Livewire’, a hyper condensed recap show lasting an hour of everything that had happened across the WWF and RAW that week. What I remember the most was my Nana loving Vince McMahon’s facial expressions. She’d laugh until she coughed at Vince McMahon’s ‘fish out of water’ face.

For reasons I had to move back and live with my Mam again, so no more cable and once again the access to wrestling gone. Kinda. I made friends in college and they also liked wrestling, I’d often stay over at Marc’s house on a Friday to try and stay awake as long as possible to watch WCW (and play a ton of Sega Saturn and N64 too). Michael’s family would tape the WWF PPVs, so it was over to his to watch them and DX’s antics. It’s odd thinking back to how we just bounced between each other’s homes to watch wrestling together. We all had our favourites; Marc was a huge Sting fan, and had a bucket full of the old wrestling figures (Sting more than anyone else); Michael liked Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was at the height of his 3:16 popularity; and I liked Diesel/Kevin Nash, he had that cocky confidence and his role as bodyguard with HBK was amazing. Later on I’d start to really like Owen Hart (Marc started to gravitate towards Bret Hart), he teamed with the British Bulldog, and was Slammy Award Winning afterall!
If we weren’t watching wrestling we were playing WWF Attitude or WCW/NWO Revenge on the N64. The hours invested in creating a host of wrestlers and friends were immense. One of the lasting memories I have of playing those games were the time we broke Mankind on Attitude. We had punched and powerbombed him so much he was knocked out standing on his feet. He stood there looping through his stunned animation until we kicked him again. For some reason this was hilarious.

As the years progressed even Channel 4, a FREE channel, gained WWF coverage with WWF Heat and a handful of PPVs to show. Amazing.

Then for some reason around 2003 I sort of stopped watching wrestling completely. I still played the games, but I had little more than a passing interesting in watching the shows. Maybe it was the loss of WCW, maybe it was growing up at hitting my 20s and moving around the country, but for whatever reason I stopped watching.
In 2004 The Wrestling Channel appeared suddenly on freeview boxes, introducing NWA Total Nonstop Action.
But it wasn’t until 2005 or 6 that I really started to watch again, and that was due to my friend Jamie – he never gave up watching wrestling and (if anything) had stepped up and become a full blown tape trader. He had tapes of wrestling from Japan, of these upstart ‘indie promotions’ Ring of Honor, CHIKARA and Combat Zone Wrestling. I was hooked again.
These new wrestlers, styles and the mayhem were fresh. Dangerous. For some reason this felt REAL — woah, hold on, look… we all know wrestling is predetermined, but some of those moves looked like they’d legit kill someone, some of those kicks looked like they were going to legit knock someone out. Perhaps it was the dark gym halls, the lack of mats and padding around the ring.
I even attended my first live WWE show, taking my girlfriend (now wife) with me.

Fast forward to 2019 and I’m sort of stuck in that passive limbo. I haven’t watched any ‘new’ wrestling for four years or so other than Wrestlemania. Yet… I have been watching wrestling. For whatever reason I thought it’d be a good idea to watch the first Monday Night Nitro from September 1995 and watch EVERYTHING from there in chronological order: Raws, Smackdowns, PPVs, Nitros, Thunders, ECW shows, and even indie shows too.
I’m currently up to April 2003, it has only taken 4 years to get there and I feel like that’d be a good subject for another post (or even series of posts).

Basically, I like wrestling.

Chris