Stone of Destiny (2008)

This is the true story of the daring robbery by 4 Scottish students, in 1950, to return the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey in London, to Scotland.  The Stone of Destiny is a big hunk of stone that was used for hundreds of years in the ceremonies when kings were anointed in Scotland.   It was stolen by the English in 1296 and built into a chair that has been used ever since in coronations of English Queens and Kings, with the last time it was used for the current Queen of Britain, Queen Mary in 1953.

The Stone has been long held as a symbolic token of the hold the English have had over the Scottish.  So when nationalist pride raises its head, the Stone is often cited as unfinished business.   In the late 1940′s early 1950′s Scotland was going through an anti-English period (these happen frequently) and after a raising speech by John MacCormick (Robert Carlyle) a student,

Ian Hamilton,   decides enough is enough and he can go down to London and steal the Stone from the English and return it to Scottish soil.

Along the way he persuades 3 other students, including Kay Matheson (played by

Kate Mara from the Martian) to help him out.   There is a number of smaller incidents that happen along the way but let us not spoil the story here.

The movie is well written, but done in a more humorous way than serious drama.  Due to that, you get the feeling that the story isn’t true.  Such an iconic symbol of Scottish history wouldn’t be boosted by 4 students surely?

But it is true, with the odd artistic license here and there granted, the story stands largely to the truth.

The movie is filmed around Paisley and Glasgow, including a few streets where yours truly had his flat during university.  It was fun to see those streets transformed to the 1950′s look.

The movie is fun and interesting enough to hold your interest for the time, but fails to really detail the significance of the Stone to the viewer.  There are also some sub-plots that don’t make a lot of sense and get in the way.

Overall, not too bad.

#92 in the series


Viewing Date
Wednesday, 18th November 2015 (Richmond)


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Whiplash (2014)

This obscure unknown movie made quite the splash at the 2014 Oscars being nominated across the board for a number of awards including Best Picture.  While getting a huge promotion boost with the Oscars (and various other awards) it still only managed to pull in $13M at the box office, which isn’t a huge amount but against a $3M budget, kept the bean counters very happy.

The movie centers around an upcoming drummer, at music school, against a teacher who simply bullies him into playing more and more.  There really is nothing more than that.  

If you look up the word pretentious you discover: “
Claiming or demanding a position of distinction or merit, especially when unjustified”.  Or if you wish to shorten that then just say Whiplash.

J.K. Simmons plays the hard assed music teacher who is hell bent on making everyone’s lives hell.   Preparing for this role must have been fairly straight forward as he has lifted every, now parodied, move from the classic actor   R. Lee Ermey as General Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.  

The difference here is that General Hartman is training men for war.  There is a huge amount of method in his madness.   However, Whiplash, is a jazz song.  A frigging piece of music!  No tune is worth blood pouring from your fingers as you drum too hard or being slapped by your teacher.  Ridiculous.

But it gets worse/better depending on which position you take on whether this is a masterpiece or not.

Miles Teller is the student who is putting up with this nonsense.   He believes this is the only way he can be great and become famous (hasn’t he heard of YouTube?).   Teller, who looks spookily like a young John Cusack, is in a continual dazed state as he moves from scene to scene.

Let us keep this in context.  It’s music.  Period.   No lives are being lost.  No countries are going to fall.   Yet, when Teller is involved in a very nasty car crash that crushes his car, he still gets out and wobbles, bleeding, and still runs to a music competition that he will muscle his way onto the band to play the drums.


He’s leaving the scene of an accident for a start.  He is also covered in blood, in addition to his head streaming blood, and NOT ONE person asks him if he is okay or should go to a hospital.  Really?

There is zero heroism or even admiration in this act.  Completely stupid.  We have to keep going back to the original goal .. to play drums at a competition!  Who cares!

That is the problem for me with this movie.  I have absolutely no sympathy or desire for the student to gain his dream.  I am not invested in his outcome and when I see the lengths he will put himself through, I can’t help but wonder if he is perusing the right dream.  If you are that single minded then refocus that to something may indeed save lives.

J.K. Simmons without a doubt played this role extremely removed from his usual characters he puts on.  You kept waiting for a witty remark or comment, but none came.  He played General Hartman perfectly.

At a 107 minutes, if you watch the first 10 minutes, then come in for the last 10 minutes, then you will have missed nothing but saved 87 minutes of your life.

The original movie started off as a short film shown at the Sundance festival.  It should have stayed short.


Viewing Date
Saturday, 5th September 2015


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