Thursday 2 July 2009

DVD Reviews

Review by Rob Wade

Underground is a movie that depicts fighting of the variety known as “Underground”. It’s a fairly safe bet that if you’ve seen a movie previously that depicts the same sort of fighting, you know what to expect. If you haven’t, let me sum it up for you: This movie is about one thing and one thing only, the pursuit of the most brutal looking fight scenes and not much else. When your biggest star draw is Danny John-Jules from Red Dwarf, and he DOESN’T have a principal role, you know narrative flow isn’t the most important concern for the filmmakers.

Underground chronicles a tournament put together by a mysterious organiser in order to find the fighter who’s willing to risk it all for a £500,000 prize. Unbeknownst to the fighters initially, they later discover that they are being backed by rich investors in order to provide entertainment in a new type of blood sport. All of them have different reasons to fight, but there can only be one winner. Apart from the makers of the film, obviously.

My aversion to this movie started early. Within five minutes, the basic plot has been established (and it’s handy they set up a basic plot, as it’s pretty much all you get for the next hour and a half) and the first match is not far from being underway. However, it’s clear that when they were coming up with ideas for the 12 fighters’ backgrounds, they ran a little dry after about 6. Fine, I can deal with the idea of characters with names (that incidentally describe their backgrounds, although I’m sure you could have worked that out in due course) such as 'The Soldier' and 'The Ex-Convict'. However, can someone tell me what’s supposed to be scary about characters named 'The Teacher' and 'The Priest'?

The pace of the film is fine, for the sheer number of fights and back-story they have to fit in at least. The film clocks in at 87 minutes, which when you consider that there are 13 fights, sounds like it should be a reasonable amount of time devoted to each fight. However, somehow I felt cheated at the end of each fight, mostly because a lot of the fight was spent promoting each person and giving them a pro-wrestling style slow walk to the battleground (Incidentally, ‘The Priest’ and ‘The Ex-Convict’ did battle in a church – it felt like Mortal Kombat for idiots at this point).

The film, however, scores higher than you might expect simply because as a fighting movie, it’s not actually terrible. Yes, it didn’t do much for me, but then I’m not a fan of this type of film. The fight choreography is good quality, the acrobatics involved (when they happen) are pretty impressive, and everyone legitimately looks tough (although they all seem to mysteriously fight like trained martial artists – bizarre eh?).

Besides which, there are some classic inadvertent lines brought from the terrible naming system of the film, such as “The Police Officer vs. The Foreigner” to please the tabloid press lovers and BNP supporting fans of the underground film industry.

This film is also responsible for possibly the greatest line in any film ever, brought on by a first-round victory for a character without a fixed domicile: “Congratulations to ‘The Homeless’”
Ooh, yeah, because they’ve got the world at their feet, haven’t they? There’s a lot going for them, the homeless. Seriously, did NOBODY notice that on the script draft?

But I digress…

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:

It’s an underground fighting movie. If you thought there WOULDN’T be violence, you’re about ten IQ points short of a PE teacher’s jockstrap.
One nipple is visible through a see-through top, and a few girls are stripping in a club (they don’t show much).
A few uses of the word “fuck”, but not a particularly large amount.
Other points in favour:
“Congratulations to The Homeless”
The acrobatics in this movie are quite impressive.
See, this is a difficult one. As much as I didn’t enjoy the movie personally, as an example of an underground fighting movie, it’s actually not bad. Besides, if you’re watching an underground fighting movie, it’s a generally accepted truth that you’re not really interested in the narrative or the characters. With that in mind, I’m awarding this movie a 6/10 on the grounds that it does appeal to fans of the genre, but will not really be of much interest to those who are not specifically into this sort of thing.

James May’s Big Ideas
Review by Blake Harmer
Have you ever wondered what happened with the future? Like where the hell are the robot servants? Or Rocket Cars? Or Lightsabers? Or any cool sci-fi stuff for that matter? Well it turns out that Top Gear Presenter and lover of food James May has been asking these questions as well and this is what this series is based on, and it turns out that there are examples of these that exist today, and there are very logical reasons as to why they haven’t become a mainstream product:

The two DVD set contains three episodes of the series in which he looks at a different aspect of the future in each episode. In the first episode, James May looks at improved methods of transportation to reduce congestion. This leads him to look at flying cars; jet packs, teleportation and vertical take offs. In the second episode he looks at robotics and cyborgs to see if we are far off from having robot servants, and in the third episode, he looks at alternative energy sources that are brighter, more powerful, and more technologically forward thinking than simply using gas or oil, such as thin air.

Each episode is strongly put together and has a feel of James May trying to solve his conundrums systematically. For example, he finds a flying car doesn’t work very well because of the price and the licences you would need to operate it, so then goes on to looking at single man vehicles such as a rocket pack and the world’s smallest helicopter. James May also keeps the documentary interesting by keeping in cheerful and adding his typical Top Gear style banter and one-liners.

This DVD set does have downsides though, for example the set only has 3 episodes and therefore isn’t long for your typical TV series. I was also troubled at the fact there were no bonus features on the DVDs which made me wonder why they didn’t cram all three one-hour episodes on to one disc as we know this is possible, rather than two episodes on one disc and one on the other. It is a minor gripe but it seemed rather messy for an Open University release. Also, although it is well put together, I feel it doesn’t have the fun and general "Wow" factor that Jeremy Clarkson’s previous TV documentaries had where he looked at different vehicles and technological advances. And although James May does it in a very similar format to Clarkson, I feel that Clarkson just generally does it better. But this may be the fact that I think James May is the weakest of the three Top Gear presenters.

Overall this is a good DVD set and a worthwhile watch if you are interested in seeing some truly amazing technological breakthroughs that are going on throughout the world. But without bonus features, there isn’t a lot keeping you interested after the series. Definitely worth a rent though if you can get hold of it though.


  1. the first rule of underground is that you do not talk about underground..... Fight club rip off?

  2. I wouldn't call it a rip off.

    As Blake said, James May uses a lot of blunt one-liners and if anything, May's the kind of person to use a fight club reference to pay tribute to it.

    e.g. If something was gash... use TERMINATOR 3 reference for it.