Friday, 14 December 2018

Movie Review: Wolfhound (Volkodav)

Directed by Nikolay Lebedev, 2006

Pros: good acting, decent special effects, entertaining

Cons: cliche plot

A former slave goes after the men who destroyed his village. He becomes a guard for a princess who’s been targeted by the man who killed his parents. 

I heard about this film via Ross from the youtube channel Accursed Farms. He did a Ross’s Game Dungeon’s review of Requital, a game featuring Wolfhound. When Ross said you should watch the movie if you own a sword, well… who doesn’t?

If you’ve seen Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja or a number of other sword and sorcery based films you’ll know what’s about to happen in this Russian film when men attack the young protagonist’s village. As soon as I saw his pregnant mother I knew this would be a revenge plot. And it is. It’s significantly better - and more interesting - than the 80s films I mentioned though, which is important as it’s over 2 hours long. 

Wolfhound has a pet bat that helps him out a few times, which reminded me of The Beastmaster. I’m curious how they got it to act the way it did, and hope no bats were killed or maimed to get the footage they needed (it starts the film with a torn wing so it can’t fly).

As a character, Wolfhound has a lot of compassion for his fellow men, going out of his way at times to help others, which I enjoyed seeing. Often these heroes are only in it for themselves. In fact, there’s a whole undertone of ‘love will save the world’ that seems hokey considering the violence that rules this place. So I loved that his actions were repaid at the end.

The princess was well played. She’s kind of feisty, doesn’t want to be coddled, but also recognizes her duty to marry an enemy to forge peace. She’s practical in the face of her destiny. I thought the slow romance between her and Wolfhound was really well handled.

The sets and costumes were fantastic. 

At the beginning I thought it strange that they didn’t explain how Wolfhound escaped from the mines, but it’s brought in as backstory at a point where it doesn’t slow the plot, which made me happy.

The special effects at the end are decent. They kept them to a minimum, which probably helped. 

Like Ross, I can recommend this to anyone who has a sword hanging on their wall or next to their bed. ;)

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Shout-Out: Retrograde by Peter Cawdron

Mankind has long dreamed of reaching out to live on other planets, and with the establishment of the Mars Endeavour colony, that dream has become reality. The fledgling colony consists of 120 scientists, astronauts, medical staff, and engineers. Buried deep underground, they're protected from the harsh radiation that sterilizes the surface of the planet. The colony is prepared for every eventuality except one - what happens when disaster strikes Earth?

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Video: Editing is Everything Harry Potter but in 7 Different Genres

My last year of high school I had a group music assignment to take a film clip and change the mood by changing the music. That's the idea behind Editing is Everything. She sometimes uses similar 'genres' (like noir, crime, thriller) where the mood doesn't change that much, but it's still fascinating seeing the different ways music affects films and how different movie trailers are cut.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

No review today

Sorry for the lack of book review today. This will be the second week I’ve missed this year. With the postal strike in Canada and several other factors I’ve had to get a lot of my holiday preparations (making Christmas cards, chocolates, ornaments, food schedules, etc.) done earlier than usual, which hasn’t left me much time or concentration for reading. I did try to read a few books but just couldn’t get into them. I do have a review prepared for next week and other content for this week. 

’Tis the season to be busy.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Movie Review: Death Race 2000

Directed by Paul Bartel, 1975
IMDb listing

Pros: surprisingly still applicable social commentary

Cons: some gore, some nudity

In a dystopian future USA, the masses love this deadly transcontinental race whose scoring system is determined by what innocents the drivers kill along the way. But on its 20th anniversary, a small group of revolutionaries want to end it for good.

This was my first time seeing this movie and I was surprised by how much I liked it and how much the social commentary still applies.

One of the five racers talks about the master race and her symbol is the nazi flag. When Machine Gun Joe is introduced to jeers from Frankenstein’s fans, he takes out a machine gun and shoots into the air. No one bats an eye. Similarly, when the ‘wrong’ targets are hit in a few instances, people just laugh off the unexpected violence as being simply part of the race.

The movie addresses all of this, and while it doesn’t beat you over the head with the moralistic ramifications, they are clear in the visuals and reporter dialogue.

I was surprised that the revolutionary subplot brought not only some tension into the race, but also some worldbuilding, showing that not everyone’s happy with how things have turned out. The world isn’t very fleshed out, but that works to the film’s advantage, as you’re allowed to imagine what could have allowed things to get this bad. And given the plot, more back story would have just slowed the pace.

There’s some gore, though less than I expected given the scoring system. There’s also some nudity, which I’m not a fan of.

The racing scenes appear to be sped up footage, which makes them appear kind of cheesy at times. Beyond that there are some explosions, but not much in the way of special effects.

I understand why Frankenstein wore a mask, but the cape seemed an odd choice for a racer. I suspect it’s part of the satire, that a caped crusader who’s murdering innocents is the new hero of the USA.

David Carradine is fantastic as Frankenstein. He’s very taciturn and you’re not sure what he wants beyond winning the race. I didn’t realize Sylvester Stallone was in this, so seeing him as the main antagonist was a pleasant surprise. I appreciated that two of the five drivers were women, and three of the navigators were as well. Unfortunately* I don’t think there were any people of colour in the film at all.

I’m not sure I believe things would turn out the way they do here at the end (I suspect there would be more pushback from other people in power), but I can see why this film’s become a cult hit.

This definitely isn’t a film for everyone. But if you like dystopian worlds, this one’s pretty well done.

*While I say it’s unfortunate, given the storyline of people randomly killing others, maybe it’s best that all the victims were as white as the drivers.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Shout-Out: Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton

The future is curious.


Today our bodies define us. We color our hair; tattoo our skin; pierce our ears, brows, noses. We lift weights, run miles, break records. We are flesh and blood and bone.


Tomorrow has different rules. The future is no longer about who we are--it's about who we want to be. If you can dream it, you can be it. Science will make us smarter, healthier, flawless in every way. Our future is boundless.


This is a story that begins tomorrow. It's a story about us. It's a story about who comes after us. And it's a story about perfection. Because perfection has a way of getting ugly.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Video: What the Ancients Knew

I'm not sure what the legalities of this are, but someone's posted 6 episodes of the show What the Ancients Knew. A friend pointed me to episode 2, China.

I’ve only seen the one episode so far but it was fascinating. I learned a lot from it. While I knew the Chinese discovered gunpowder quite early and used it for fireworks, I didn’t realize they had rocket arrows (with a pocket of gunpowder to propel them further). Nor did I realize they used the North Pole as an axis point when examining the heavens and created armillary spheres significantly earlier than European scientists. They also had a mechanical waterclock, crossbows, steel… Very interesting video. Can’t wait to watch the rest of this series.

There is a scene where an old Chinese emperor examines a cob of corn, which is anachronistic. I’m really confused over why they did that. But that reenactment scene aside, the show seemed quite accurate.