Saturday, 18 January 2014


Come on, you know you wanted to see Stallone and De Niro have a fight. You have wanted it for years, of course you have! Okay, so maybe you would have preferred it when they were, shall we say, a bit younger. Maybe when it wouldn't have been, by necessity, a comedy rather than a bloody, all action boxing movie. So what we don't have here is Raging Bull vs Rocky but, like Stallone's Italian Stallion, "Grudge Match" beats the odds to become one of the best movies either actor has made for some time... and yes, I know that's pretty easy for De Niro, but Stallone still makes good flicks!

the story centres around Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen, two ex champions who absolutely hate each other beat each other in title fights 30 years ago. They are dragged out of retirement to play themselves in a video game (motion capture stuff), but when they meet the old rivalry resumes and they start to scrap. With today being what it is, the fight goes viral (as does the next one) and they find themselves being persuaded to take part in the ultimate Grudge Match (hey! That's the title!), thirty years after they both retired.

As a set up it's pretty standard, made more interesting by the choice of leads. Kevin Hart (Scary Movie 3) channels Chris Rock as the son of their old promoter, but the star support is Alan Arkin (Freebie & The Bean), who excels as Sharp's old trainer. Throw in Kim Basinger (Dog & Cat) as the ex girlfriend of both fighters and you have a cast that is very well catered for by writers Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman.

Yes, the real reason that "Grudge Match" wins every round is not the leads, but the script. Although there's plenty of funny comedy lines that revolve around the fact that these two guys are, like old and stuff, the real meat of the characters is done perfectly. Each fighter has an actual personality, and each has their own way of coping with their past and indeed their present. When the fight comes at the end it's hard to root for one over the other as neither are perfect but neither are dicks either.

"Grudge Match" is an unexpected cinematic delight, a simple set up elevated by depth and warmth. So who wins? You do.


Yet another band who have made their album due to the generosity of fans, Bristol band Blackwolf are riding the crest of a wave whilst creating more, showing massive potential and needing that little bit of luck to help them move onto bigger and better things.

It’s early days yet, mind. “The Hunt” is their debut album, and will be backed up by a rather sweet tour with The Answer. It’s rather sweet because that band must have been at the top of their list when looking for road buddies. Simply put, if you are a fan of The Answer (or even The Temperance Movement) there’s every indication that Blackwolf will be right up your street, as the musical directions of both are certainly pointing down neighbouring roads. 

Blackwolf, whilst being a rather heavy live band, have a real Southern twang to them, with a deep blues groove serving as the base of their sound. There’s plenty of Black Crowes type influence on show, but with that much more gusto and a bigger pair of balls. Vocalist Scott Sharp has a superb, powerful voice that simply soars above the music, completely belying his West Country roots by sounding like he was raised in a swamp and has been fighting to get out all his life.

When done right, this sort of music is incredibly energizing, throwing in passion, soul and pure rock all at the same time. As you can see from the rating, Blackwolf do it totally right. From broody, powerful opener “Mr Maker” through to the upbeat closer “Sea Of Merry” they don’t put a foot wrong. Even when they slow down, for “Sleepwalking” near the end, it’s a soulful three minutes that bounces into guitar driven life for the final sixty seconds and features some trouser tightening notes from Mr Sharp.

I just love it when a new band comes out of the traps hungry for blood, and Blackwolf have made just about the best start possible, with everything they’ve achieved so far attributable purely to their own talent and determination. Where they go next is anyone’s guess, but I’d bet on onwards and upwards as two likely destinations. Get the album and see them now so you can say you did, later.