Why A Lot Of Film Villains Are British

 photo generalzod_zpsf00df49e.jpg

The other night the husband and I watched the film In Time and I noticed something a little strange; one of the villains was British. It’s not strange in itself that he was British, however he was the only British character in a film that took place in a dystopian American city. How did this British guy get plopped right in the middle of a society that he obviously wasn’t born in? Simple, he was inherently evil!

Now, I’m not saying that the British are inherently evil. However, it seems like filmmakers seem to think that they exude this special kind of malice. When they are casting for films they think ‘How can I make this character even more evil than he already is?’. They think for maybe 5 minutes and come up with the brilliant idea that somebody with a British accent is needed. After they get that idea they have the choice of either a posh accent or a non posh accent. This isn’t necessarily an easy decision, because depending on the accent their character will be simply bad or extraordinarily evil. Let’s look at both types of accents and characters.

THE POSH ACCENT

British people who possess a posh accent are for the most part people who are wealthy, people who are pretending they are wealthy or those who just happen to live in an upwardly mobile area that aren’t wealthy. For filmmakers a posh accent can encompass anybody from a person who happens to live in west London to a member of royalty.

What I have noticed is that an evil character who has a posh British accent quite frequently has plans to take over the world. In other words the characters who have this accent have plans that are greater than anybody else. These accents automatically give their bearer the superhuman power of being intelligent enough to come up with these grandiose plans. Why? Because they possess a posh accent and you don’t! They have had better schooling and better opportunities at life and they are using these to their fullest extent. Grabbing evil by the throat they are using this intelligence to get what they want. It could be some land, money, women, or all of the gold bars on planet Earth. It doesn’t matter, they are dangerous because they know they are dangerous, and they exude an air of moral superiority.

THE NON POSH ACCENT

British people who speak with a non posh type of accent can be from a anywhere in Britain. Be it from Yorkshire or the West Country the one thing filmmakers know is that they are not posh, since they have chosen to retain their accents. They can lave a lavish lifestyle, but when it comes down to it they have risen from off the streets.

Those British villains without a posh accent are quite frequently trying to move up in the world. They have come from lowly beginnings and are using their wits and skills to try to make their cash in any fashion that they can. It can even be a character from the wrong side of the tracks who will do anything to become famous; using anonymous people, friends and just about anybody else. That is not to say that the non posh British villain can’t be smart, because of course he can be. Rather than having an expensive education they have earned their skills from the streets. Because of all of this the non posh accented British villain can be even more deadly than his counterpart. He is hungry and wants more.

There are of course exceptions to some of these rules. Once in a while you will come across a movie villain who has a posh British accent but who is slumming. This character has come from a wealthy family but has become a black sheep and is now just a bank robber or such. Then there are the ones who are the head of crime organizations who have posh accents even though they have come from the streets. I know that doesn’t make sense, blame the filmmakers not me!

One thing that every film villain who is British, no matter what the accent, exudes while on the screen is sex. Yes, women in film audiences do find British accents hot. This is a truth that cannot be denied. I suppose that this only holds true for countries that are not inherently British. I mean, a British accent isn’t going to be hot to you if you already live in Britain. I’m American and American accents don’t do a thing for me at all. So, the British villain is cool to the guys watching because the character comes across as a suave or dangerous man who can get all the ladies and cash that he needs. While to women he is the epitome of sex appeal. Basically when filmmakers include a British villain they can’t lose because they are making the villain appeal to both of the sexes.

British villains will always be a staple in films and long may they reign!

Review: The Sweeney

 photo TheSweeney_zps650b8a07.jpg

Last night the husband and I sat down to watch The Sweeney. It is a 2012 film based on a British television series that was made in the 1970’s, and since I’m an American I had never heard of it before. The Sweeney is about an elite London Metropolitan police unit called the Flying Squad, who try to find the perpetrators of an jewelry store heist in which a woman gets killed. It stars Ray Winstone as DI Jack Regan, who despite some setbacks, refuses to give up on the case.

The main things that impressed me about this film were the fight scenes, car chases and gun shootouts. There are many of them and they are very well done. In Trafalgar Square the suspects rob a bank and Regan and his crew go after them. It’s not done on a set, or at a location that could maybe pass for the famous place; it was actually done at Trafalgar Square. I can’t think of another film that has actually shot an action sequence at that location, so the entire fact that they were able to do that effectively on a relatively small budget is outstanding. It took the director, Nick Love, only six hours to film that entire scene. When you watch the film it’ll make you wonder how the hell did he do that! The whole film looks really nice, which proves that you don’t need a huge budget to make an action film. In fact I would encourage independent filmmakers to watch this in order to see for themselves that a small budget doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the details.

I have always enjoyed Ray Winstone’s performances and this is no exception. The only issue I had at all was that he mumbled sometimes, and since I have only lived in the UK for six months I had issues understanding him. This happens whenever I watch any of his films so it’s all on me and not on him. If you are American I suggest you put on the subtitles; there is no shame in that! Winstone is gruff and tough and totally believable as a cop who will do a anything to get the villains. Ben Drew (Plan B) plays DC George Carter, who is Regan’s main partner in chasing down the bad guys. I am so far removed from popular culture that I had no idea who this guy was until I looked him up. There is a strong tradition of rappers becoming movie stars with mixed results and he is better than average at it, so he doesn’t bring down the film or anything like that. Finally, the last main character is DC Nancy Lewis, played by Hayley Atwell. You will most likely recognize her from Captain America. Her performance is adequate as a tough and sexy police officer. Quite frankly many actresses could also have played this part so there is nothing too special about her. There are many other recognizable supporting actors in this; far too many for me to name. If you regularly watch British films or television shows you will see many familiar faces.

The Sweeney has a pretty good screenplay but there is one major thing that bothered the hell out of me; the fact that Regan and Atwell were having an affair. Winstone is at least 20 or 30 years older than Atwell, so it wasn’t very believable. I know that many films these days have a much older man screwing a much younger woman and they make it seem like a normal occurrence, but it’s not! It’s a sexual fantasy perpetrated by filmmakers that has got to stop! Okay, end of rant! Since I have never watched the television show I don’t know how far off the mark the screenplay of the film is, but as far as original ideas go the story is pretty good. One thing that is different about this is that the top bad guy doesn’t really have many lines in the film. The good guys chase after this fellow and he’s pretty much this shadowy mysterious character. We barely learn anything about him, besides the fact that he’s Croatian. This didn’t really bother me or anything since the film is focused on Regan trying to find the guy.

All in all I can honestly say that I enjoyed watching The Sweeney. Even if you’re an ignorant American like me who has never watched the television series you will like this film. It stands by itself as a good example of a well made action flick.

The Curse Of Being A ‘Red Shirt’

The term ‘red shirt’ came into being when people watching the original Star Trek series noticed that almost every single time security personnel, who wore red shirts, were sent down to a planet with Kirk and company that they were killed by the end of the mission. They were fodder for the robot/creature/woman/man that was out to hurt the more important members of the landing party. What mattered was that the officers of the crew were safe and that the ‘red shirts’ were expendable. Below is a montage of red shirt deaths from the original Star Trek series. I didn’t make it so don’t blame me for the music!


The term ‘red shirt’ is now used to represent any character in a film whose presence doesn’t bring much to the plot, but whose death somehow creates a sort of filler. This filler can be used to show the killer or something similar, but the ‘red shirt’ doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they die. As you can guess this is used quite frequently in horror films. If there is a haunted house filled with rowdy and horny teenager chances are a couple of them are going to sneak off, have sex and be killed in the process. They can be considered ‘red shirts’ because their roles aren’t meaningful and their deaths give the killer some more time on screen.

Is any of this fair to these poor expendable characters? Of course not! Can you imagine being an innocent character just going about your business when all of a sudden somebody jumps out and kills you? I mean, you only had five minutes of screen time and didn’t even get to show off your talent of being able to blow milk bubbles through your nose!

Horror Film Survival Tips: #2

 photo shower_zpscc1e4e20.jpg

Let’s say that you are in an old abandoned high school with a bunch of friends. You all used to go to the school as teenagers and are having a spooky old time wandering about the empty hallways and hearing strange noises. While you are innocently standing in a cobweb filled hallway blood drips all over your head from the ceiling above. What do you do?

A. Scream and get the hell out of there.

B. Go to the the locker room and take a shower.

C. Just laugh it off and continue hanging out with your friends.

The correct answer is B, go to the locker room and take a shower. Nothing is worse than being in a haunted building and getting dust or blood all over your clothes. You spent the whole day trying to find just the right outfit for exploring and then this happens! How annoying! Surely, deciding to take a shower to get the worse of the grime off isn’t a bad idea? The water will of course mysteriously turn on only because you are lucky, not because of some evil unseen force. Remember, it’s a good thing to be clean and hygienic looking no matter where you are!

Review: Enter The Dragon

 photo enter_zps1960bbe7.jpg

This is the best martial arts film ever made. It has everything; Bruce Lee, Bolo Yeung, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, well choreographed fight scenes, political talk against ‘The Man’, intrigue, and even pretty women. The last thing doesn’t really interest me that much since I’m a woman but I know that men have their needs!

Enter The Dragon is about a kung fu master named Lee (Bruce Lee) who enters a martial arts contest run by drug kingpin and slaver Han (Kien Sheh). Lee goes undercover to this contest on the behest of the British government who have been after Han for a very long time. I’m not going to give the ending away since I’m not assuming that everybody has seen this, but I can safely say that a lot of fighting happens and some people die. It wouldn’t be a martial arts film without any of that, now would it?

What makes Enter The Dragon the best martial arts film ever made? Bruce Lee. There can be no question that he was one of the best martial artists to ever live. Mainly because he didn’t follow any strict rules when it came to his style. He combined several different traditional forms of martial arts, and his own philosophy, to create Jeet Kune Do. Throughout the film his creation is shown in philosophical conversations between characters and during the battle scenes. Lee choreographed all of the fighting, which unlike a lot of modern fight scenes weren’t cut every two seconds to hide stunt doubles and the like. The mirror fight between Lee and Han is hands down one of the best martial arts fight scenes ever filmed. It has been copied many times in other movies but never duplicated in terms of quality. This is due in part to the direction of Robert Clouse, who really knew what he was doing in terms of filming action sequences. His use of slow motion techniques during some of the film doesn’t slow down the action, but rather make it all the more intense.

Besides Lee the characters Roper (John Saxon) and Williams (Jim Kelly) are a hoot; Roper is an in debt gambler, Williams a street fighter from ‘the hood’. Their shared dialogue is very, very funny and brings some comic relief to the seriousness of the film. Bolo (Bolo Yeung) is another interesting character, an evil bad-ass fighter and one of Han’s men. You may recognize him from Bloodsport, in which he plays pretty much the same kind of guy. Nothing wrong with a bit of typecasting because he is quite a frightening looking fighter! I’ve always imagined Glenn Danzig watching Enter The Dragon as a kid, seeing Bolo, then thinking that he too could be a very muscular short dude! Don’t tell him I said that though! In the nunchuk scene you may be able to spot a very young Jackie Chan, who is an extra that gets beat up by Lee.

Enter The Dragon is a total product of its time. Made in 1973 there is quite a lot of political commentary which is very cool. How many martial arts films do you see these days that talk about ‘The Man’ and about how evil he is? None, and we are a worse off society for it! You can never say that Enter The Dragon doesn’t look dated because it does. This isn’t a bad thing since the sets, the music and even the costumes give it a certain feel. Yes, it can be seen as slightly cheesy, but to be honest what martial arts film doesn’t have it’s fair amount of cheese? The difference between Enter The Dragon and other films though is the fact that the production itself is very well done. It had a studio budget behind it and that made all of the difference. These days most martial arts films are straight to video without a great budget and they suffer for it.

The screenplay, written by Michael Allin, is a pretty simple good guys vs. bad guys type story, with some revenge thrown in for good measure. Han is the heavy who makes heroin and gets women addicted to it so that they can be sold as sex slaves, while Lee is the good guy who is ultimately out to get revenge from Han for the death of his sister. Everything else is secondary, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some character development going on. The character Roper actually evolves as the film goes along. At first we just think that he’s a self important idiot, but we learn that he’s actually a good guy who does the right thing when called to action.

As you can tell I love this movie. I first saw it as a child in a movie theater in the 1970’s and I know that it heavily contributed to my interest in action films. If watching this film doesn’t change how you judge fight scenes then there is something wrong with you.

History in Films: Gladiator

 photo gladiator_zps35a61e2f.jpg
This is going to be either a regular or semi-regular series of blog posts concerning how history is displayed in films. Since I’m a history nerd I can get quite worked up when a movie gets it all wrong.  Warning, there will be major plot spoilers ahead. Anyway, off we go!

Gladiator is all about a Roman General from Spain called Maximus who is betrayed by the Emperor Commodus. He figures out that Commodus has killed off his own father, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and wants him dead since Aurelius made him heir instead of his own son. After he finds his family murdered he is turned into a gladiator and gets revenge by killing Commodus in the Colosseum.

Was Marcus Aurelius murdered by his son Commodus?

No. He died of plague in the city of Vindobona, modern Vienna, in the year 180 CE. Commodus was there during the time but had nothing to do with his death.

Did Marcus Aurelius want his son Commodus to become Emperor?

Yes he did since he made Commodus co-emperor in the year 177 CE. There was a lot of controversy at the time concerning this since Commodus had no military training and was considered very erratic. Aurelius was considered, even back during his time, to be one of the most intelligent of all of the Roman emperors, so people were quite shocked by his decision.

Was there a Roman general during the time of Marcus Aurelius named Maximus?

No, there wasn’t. However, Aurelius had a close friend who was a general named Marcus Nonius Macrinus.

Did Commodus have a sister named Lucilla, and did she have a son named Lucius Verus?

Yes, Lucilla did really exist. She was in on a plot to kill Commodus that failed, so her and two other women were sent in exile to the island of Capri. Later that same year Commodus had them killed. She did have a son named Lucius, but he died as a child.

Was Commodus insane?

I wouldn’t say insane as much as he was totally full of himself. He declared himself the embodiment of Hercules, so in turn he could call himself the son of Jupiter. He had statues put up all over Rome and the Empire depicting himself as Hercules; full of power and strength. In 192 CE he declared himself the new Romulus, the original founder of Rome, after Rome was heavily damaged by fire. He even renamed the city and gave new names to the months that corresponded with his self appointed twelve names. He was quite lazy when it came to ruling Rome, and let his favorites dole out policies for him. All of these actions made him a lot of enemies in the Senate.

Did Commodus actually fight as a gladiator, and did he die in the Colosseum?

Yes, he did fight in the Colosseum as a gladiator, and this outraged the citizens of Rome. Gladiators who fought against him would surrender and not be killed, but he would slaughter amputees, exotic animals and perhaps even criminals. In private matches he would kill whomever he fought against. He even charged Rome for the privilege of seeing him fight. All of this brought along his downfall, and he wasn’t actually killed in the Colosseum. On December 31st 192 CE a group of conspirators got Narcissus, the wrestling partner of Commodus, to strangle him in his bath. After his death the original name of Rome was restored and his statues were pulled down.

As you can see the film Gladiator embellished, or even made up, a lot of the ‘history’ that it portrayed. I can understand making up certain events to have a screenplay run more smoothly, but there comes a point in which you have to stop and think if what you are trying to portray goes too far off of the original mark. There were some historians actually consulted to make this film, but so many changes were made to the script concerning historical accuracy that one of them walked out and the other refused to have their name attached to the film.

Why I Admire The Way Of The Sith And Find The Jedi Boring

 photo darthmaul_zps290ba301.jpg
I would like you all to know that I’m not a huge Star Wars nerd; I have always been at the edge of its fandom. In the past I played quite a bit of Star Wars Galaxies as various Imperial characters, and have read quite a few of the Sith oriented books that are tied into the Star Wars universe. With that being said I am by no means an expert in Star Wars lore, but I am also not a total novice. I just don’t want any hardcore Star Wars fans to read this and think that I am attempting to be some sort of guru. This is an opinion piece and nothing more. Now we can move on!

Since I can remember I have always been attracted to the darker characters in the Star Wars universe. For me the darker characters have represented something that I could not personally attain, but could often dream about. For instance, I could never learn how to use my anger to control my actions in such a way as to defeat somebody in a light saber duel, but I can watch in awe as Darth Maul obtains that goal. The Jedi, on the hand, think that emotions should be under control at all times and that to be emotional is to be weak. To be emotional is to be human, so I find this line of thought to be very restricting and quite frankly dull. Both the Sith and the Jedi have moral codes that they obey, let’s take a look at them.

THE SITH CODE

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.

Through passion, I gain strength.

Through strength, I gain power.

Through power, I gain victory.

Through victory, my chains are broken.

The Force shall free me.

What I really like about the Sith Code is that it’s realistic and not based on some nearly unobtainable perfection that you are supposed to achieve. Yes, as a Sith you have to train to attain a certain level, which can take a long time. However, emotions are something that everybody has and that everybody has lost control of at one time or another. What the Sith have to do is to use those emotions in such a way as to affect their actions. When you think about it we do that every single day; controlling our actions by our emotions rather than trying to think of a ‘logical’ way to solve a problem. Of course, what makes a decision logical? Can’t a logical decision be one that is directed by the emotions?

Passion and lust are emotions that the Sith admire and routinely bring into practice. Those two emotions can be brought forth to attain different things. An individual Sith can have a passion for an object, a person, power, or for a goal that they want to achieve and all of that is acceptable and admired. If they want something they will find a away to get it without worrying about others that stand in their way. This shouldn’t be seen as a purely evil construct, just a different way of thinking.  The Sith think of their well-being first, rather than of those around them. Others may see this as self centered, greedy and corrupt, but I see it as looking out for yourself first. In the setting of the Star Wars universe it seems more logical, at least to me, to set yourself above others and to make sure no others stand in your way of doing so.

Could I ever attain such goals? Of course not, I’m not in a character in a film. However, I am drawn towards the mythos of the Sith and can admire their use of emotions to gain whatever it is they want.

THE JEDI CODE

There is no emotion, there is peace.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

There is no passion, there is serenity.

There is no chaos, there is harmony

There is no death, there is the Force.

The one thing major that I really don’t understand about the Jedi is their rejection of emotions. They feel that by rejecting them that they can find some inner peace, which in turn makes them want to do good and create peace. I can’t imagine living my life without showing any emotion and not being guided by them at all. In fact I find such a system of conduct to be very illogical. Not only that, I find such a goal to be unattainable. I equate it to modern religious sects who are in monastic institutions so that they can’t be tempted by the sins of the outside world. Even if you isolate yourself you are still going to have emotions and be subject to them.

Jedi are not supposed to marry or have sex. Yes, you heard that right. Since having emotions and expressing them is considered a bad thing love and sex are out of the question. Oh, I’m sure that they have ‘friendly’ feelings for their colleagues and friends, but it can’t go any deeper than that or it might interfere with their inner peace. Remember, inner peace is something that they really want to achieve and perfect. They are pretty much wannabe hippies. I mean they don’t even qualify as full fledged hippies because they aren’t into sex. I would maybe have more respect for them if they actually realized that having emotions is not a ‘bad thing’ and doesn’t necessarily lead to being a bad person. Remember, evil is all subjective and in the eye of the beholder.

I actually feel quite sorry for the Jedi, because I can’t imagine finding inner peace by suppressing all emotions.

Now, I realize that there are those who might feel the complete opposite of how I do, and that’s fine. Also, I know that the Star Wars universe doesn’t exist. If for some odd reason we all find ourselves suddenly placed in a Star Wars cluster of planets, such as the Coruscant System, I would join the Sith and train to be one of them. There, I said it. For the record I think I would make an awesome Sith assassin.