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Away We Go (2009) movie review


This is, to date, the most easygoing Sam Mendes film I have seen. It’s a gentle, wryly amusing character piece focusing on the relationship between Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph). It’s about as far from the domestic unhappiness of American Beauty or the action packed adventures of Skyfall and Spectre as you could imagine. As a result, I quite enjoyed it.

Both Krasinski and Rudolph put in superb yet understated performances, a perfectly balanced couple who are unsure what the imminent birth of their first child will do to their lives. So after receiving some mildly bad news (it’s not a death!), they head off on a trip to discover where they should raise their child.

In this instance the journey starts as an attempt to find out where they want to live. As they travel from place to place it becomes clear that it’s more about them as parents, the emotional destination rather than the physical one. Each encounter adds a piece to the puzzle and gently leads them both on their journey towards parenthood.

That journey takes in a broad spectrum of thematic content that you may or may not find difficult to believe in the real world. Infertility, infidelity, divorce, absent parents, and almost blatant disregard for children.

The cast list is impressive, even if most of them show up for a couple of scenes apiece. I wanted more of Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara, mostly because they are both great in pretty much everything they do. Their brief scene at the dining table is enough though. Something is better than nothing after all.

The same can be said for Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan as parents who carry on with their lives almost as if their children aren’t present. Most of my chuckles came from their also too-brief appearance, even if Janney’s approach to the character is at times unnecessarily brash and abrasive. You can almost feel sympathy for Gaffigan’s character, and understand why Verona lost touch with her all those years ago. There’s only so much of that one can endure before snapping. It’s ironic that the scenes and dialogue I enjoyed more featured the most irritating character. Go figure.

I think of this as a companion piece to another film I have seen recently, Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers. Both movies feature characters going on a road trip. Both have characters reconnecting with their past. Both have character learning about themselves. To borrow a Star Wars phrase, the allegory is strong with this one.

Road trip movies tend to live or die on their thematic content, performances, locations or a combination of the three. Without it you end up with the same old story being retold from a slightly different perspective. The expanding list of characters can start to annoy as the only thing moving forward is the vehicle they are travelling in. The good news is that Away We Go doesn’t fall into this trap. Yes, it’s essentially a sequence of disparate scenes relying on Burt and Verona for consistency, but it works. And unlike some other films in this genre, the journey with both of these people is a delight. Well worth seeking out if you want to see a lighter side to Sam Mendes’ work.

The Boys From Brazil (1978) movie review


There has long been a theory that at the end of World War 2 a group of leading Nazis escaped to South America rather than commit suicide.

This film, adapted from the novel by Ira Levin, takes this as a starting point to spin off into an intriguing science fiction thriller. The premise itself is already worthy of interest, but The Boys From Brazil goes one further – Mengele is planning on cloning 90+ copies of Adolf Hitler. Because, if you have the power to do so, why not?

Not only do we have the delights of Gregory Peck playing Dr Mengele, a delightfully sinister turn in his white suit, but there are other joys to be found elsewhere. A scarily young Steve Guttenberg. Jemmz Merrsson (James Mason). Denholm Elliott. That guy who played the Russian official in the Bond films. That guy who played the fake Slugworth in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And, of course, Sir Laurence Olivier.

He plays Ezra Lieberman, a Nazi hunter who is put on Mengele’s trail by Steve Guttenberg’s character.

And an added bonus, Richard Marner who played Colonel von Strohm in Allo Allo also makes a brief appearance. And Bruno Ganz too as a cloning expert. He would later go on to play Hitler in Downfall. Quite frankly, the cast is incredible.

It’s slow in actually revealing Mengele’s true plans. It starts with an overheard conversation where he plans the deaths of 94 men across the globe, all aged 65, over the course of the next 2 years. A mysterious beginning, one that is pure thriller narrative. The science fiction aspect of it only rears its head at the halfway point, and it’s a doozy.

Women aren’t best served by the script – their purpose is to be servile to men, or to react with a shriek or take part in a bit of wailing. Prunella Scales in particular is wasted, having a brief few moments of screen time. That can be said about all of the other notable faces other than Mason, Olivier and Peck – a brief

The most notable female face in the film is Lilli Palmer as Lieberman’s sister Esther, and even she’s limited to merely offering a bit of exposition here and there.

At the time of release, the improbable plot was still plausible. It’s ridiculous, of course, and if you peel away a good thirty minutes of the script you’ll still reach the same finale, but it was something that conspiracy theorists could easily invest time into.

In some ways I feel that they could have emphasised Mengele’s plot more. If you take that away we end up with a serviceable but very low key thriller. If you strip that plot away it is little more than two elderly men slowly going about their business before having a bit of a scuffle. The title and plot summary suggest a little more in the way of action, plot elements that are genuinely thrilling. If the cast didn’t include these heavyweights then it would be far less remarkable.

10,000 BC (2008) movie review


Roland Emmerich is renowned for destroying most of the known world in his films. Whether it’s Mayan prophecies, aliens, global warming or possibly even the Gods of Egypt (if it wasn’t for James Spader and Kurt Russell, anyway), he’s always at home blowing things up.

Some might argue that he’s also managed to destroy history in 10,000 BC. It’s like an even more rubbish version of Pathfinder. At least that had Clancy Brown in it. No offence, but Cliff Curtis isn’t in the same league as the mighty Clancy. Then again, few people are. Even a sighting of everyone’s favourite supermarket employee Leighton (Joel Fry) isn’t enough to elevate this above average.

A tribal group of woolly mammoth hunters are attacked by a group of horse riding bad guys. They kidnap a large number of the tribe, including the woman of lead character D’reh (Steven Strait). This of course will not be tolerated, so he and a small group of remaining tribesmen set off in pursuit. What follows is your standard A to B adventure, with occasionally iffy CGI beasts and a story that is little more than D’reh stabbing various animals with sticks.

The setting might be 12,000 years ago, but in all other respects it’s just like every other revenge/quest story you’ve seen. No risks are taken, nothing exceptional takes place in the story. It’s as if they decided that they had already taken a big risk in setting it when they did. To push things even further would mean no money coming in. Which, it seems, didn’t happen anyway.

It’s a bit weird seeing and hearing these characters acting like modern day people, albeit people who look like Rastafarians who have spent a little too long in an aviary. It also gets increasingly silly as things progress. From making friends with sabre tooth tigers to pyramids being built using elephants and woolly mammoths, to the leaders of the work force possibly, maybe not being from Earth.

It’s a bit of a tonal change that doesn’t sit well with the first half of the film. The constant shifting of landscape is also something that doesn’t really work. Yes, it’s supposed to show the epic journey that the characters are going on, but in real terms it just feels like the varied settings are right next door to one another.

This is one of the things that Emmerich does get right though. Using sweeping camerawork to fly over the landscape is always a winner. The location shoots are gorgeous to look at, although their impact is occasionally spoiled by sequences where the actors are clearly on a green screen set.

Even more strangely, it seems to link in to the Stargate franchise, based on a couple of easter eggs here and there. That “could be aliens” thing mentioned earlier, and that the bad guys sound like the Goa’uld. Exploring the history of the Goa’uld in this time period? That would be rather epic indeed. And, sadly, a much better idea for a film than this one.

Back in Business


Over the years, this blog has had vast periods of inactivity. That’s been for a number of reasons, and without retreading old ground, I ended up down the Twitter rabbit hole for a while, then decided to put my energy into writing a novel or four. In that sense the lack of blog updates was a success, although I still need to edit those first drafts and get the publication ball rolling. Then the ‘rona happened in 2020 and after a bout of covid very early on in the pandemic it took the oomph out of my creative sales. A lengthy period of what I think in hindsight was depression followed and continued well into 2021. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve had ups and downs since then. I think I turned a corner in mid-2022 and I’ve been on a more positive uptick since then, I’m pleased to say. That’s led to reviewing all my project notes and trying to do something with them. If nothing else it will help keep me sane.

I’m starting this year with a bit of a plan to not only increase the number of posts I write, but also expanding on my creative exploits as far and wide as I can go. Whether or not this lasts more than a month we shall see, but for now I’m going to try getting back into film blogging and try to expand from there. It would be nice to add as much content I did back in 2013 when this website was at its peak, but I’ll set a more manageable target for now.

What’s coming up?

So here’s what I’m hoping to achieve in 2023:

  • 100-150 film blogs, published regularly starting from the week of 9 January 2023. There’s a good chance I might also release them as a podcast, for want of a better term. More on that TBC.
  • Additional updates on my novel work as and when appropriate • Occasional mental health posts if I feel my focus slipping too far into the dark.
  • Updates on my other projects as they happen. These include:
  • 60 Second Gamer (60SG) – my channel that got lost when the game called 60 Seconds took all the search hits. 60SG is easier to search for, thankfully. I have a blog planned to discuss the history of that little project – stay tuned for more. Until then, you can find the first two series of videos on the Random Stoat channel here, and Series 3 (with more to come) on the dedicated 60SG channel. Like, subscribe etc if you’d be so kind.
  • Format Review – a bi-monthly video games magazine with issues 4-9 planned for 2023. You can buy digital and physical editions of issues 1-3.5 at the dedicated Format Review website.
  • Short story anthology – In the off months for Format Review I’m looking to publish my own stories in an anthology format. Some will be really short pieces, others will be longer, and some will be chapters in ongoing stories that can be collected later in a single edition. I’ve spent a long time reading 2000AD, what can I say…
  • Audio series – I’ve been working on a sci-fi radio show for 15 years now, and I did actually record a series of it back in 2010. It deserves a refresh and another lease of life – again, there’s a story there to be told another time.

And, I think, that will be enough for the time being. If I even manage half of this even I’ll be impressed. Happy New Year, all.

Empire State of the Dead (2016) movie review


This is, I think, the worst zombie movie I have ever seen. And I’ve watched some tripe over the years. This really is a turgid, horrible mess of a film, and a worthy entry in my fabled 0.5 out of 5 club. Zombies are normally a sure-fire bet for a low budget production. If the story’s poor you can at least enjoy some undead carnage. That Empire State of the Dead fails to engage on any front is not just remarkable, but strangely impressive.

Now, I may have been able to get along with it if it wasn’t for the fact it runs for nearly two hours. TWO. HOURS. I’d allow that for a George Romero movie, or even Zack Snyder’s Dawn remake, because stuff actually happens in those films. Letterboxd says this film is only 90 minutes long. I wish. It would have saved me half an hour of my life. I will caveat that by saying I spent the second half of the film replacing the back of my old Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which had taken an unfortunate tumble a year previously. That engaged me far more than the movie, both before, during and after the repair.

This is yet another example of a strong blurb selling a terrible movie. That blurb said that a crack military team are sent into a city overrun by the dead in a bid to restore order. Well yes, that does happen. But it happens very, very slowly and without any aim or purpose. There’s stuff going on in the woods, like a subpar episode of Stargate SG-1. There’s people arguing with each other, and a few zombies here and there.

There is absolutely nothing that suggests we’re getting a “Zombies in New York” style movie. It’s kept to limited and out of the way locations and you never get a feel for the big city. It could pass for New York State perhaps, and down one of the quieter roads that nobody ventures down. The locations are ripe for horror movie usage, but do not suit this particular story.

And down that road are performances that are stilted and wooden, to the point of dragging things down further into the mire. Not a single performance stands out to me, resulting in a film that is for all intents and purposes a long collage of grey, with occasional splashes of claret to wake you up. It’s very much like a group of friends decided to make a film, but without a script, a plot or a movie crew.

Can I say anything positive about this experience? Yes. The title is pretty good, and the blurb that sold me on watching it did its job. Oh, and the director is the gloriously named Ron Bonk. If he’s not Dutch then it’s an incredible name that is far better than the movie he has churned out. Aside from that, my advice is to steer clear of this mess. Don’t make the same mistake that I did.

Trouble Every Day (2001) movie review


I’m fairly certain that Vincent Gallo only plays one character. That is, the guy who stares mournfully off into the middle distance, while his life falls apart and other lives go on around him. He’s often monosyllabic, a bit creepy, and prone to siezing up at the thought of any inopportune memory. In that respect he’s got a lot in common with introverts like me, so perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so judgemental.

The title Trouble Every Day comes from a Frank Zappa song. Is it a coincidence that Gallo’s character looks a lot like the crazed guitarist? Possibly. It’s also perhaps a little misleading, as the plot here isn’t so much of trouble every day, more trouble over an ongoing and lengthy period of time. Besides, that song is about being forced to experience bad news on television and comments on discrimination. I’m not sure I fully appreciate the link if one was intended. If anyone wants to enlighten me on this, I’m happy to hear your thoughts.

Anyway, back to the review. Gallo is Shane, recently married to June (Tricia Vessey). They are an American couple on honeymoon in France, where there are shady goings on involving Core (Beatrice Dalle) being locked up by herself in a big empty house. A couple of youngsters decide to try and break into the house and, well… things don’t turn out well for them. Shane meanwhile is fighting against his urges, but the true meaning behind them is unclear. Keep watching, weary traveller, for all will soon be revealed.

This is a modern take on the vampire story, albeit one where the script is almost too obtuse for its own good. Here’s a thought: be arthouse by all means, but offer just a little explanation to your audience if you want to get anywhere with it. Honestly, it doesn’t have to be much, just a few pointers. A little dialogue here or there wouldn’t go amiss either. There’s only so much angsty staring into the distance you can tolerate before you start reaching for the remote to turn it off. Well, unless it’s an Ingmar Bergman film, in which case carry on as you were. It might have helped a bit too if the script hadn’t taken so much time to get going. It’s beyond the halfway mark before something genuinely interesting and different happens, and by then most of my good will towards the film had started to ebb.

On that note, the gore and violence scenes are top notch, although sadly all too brief. They add a literal dash (or maybe splash?) of colour to the story, and drag it up from its otherwise mildly tedious approach.

What did I like then? The score is pretty good, as is the concept for the film. It’s a great alternative take if you can see past the flaws presented by the script. Notions of lust and desire exchange time with the battle between nature and science. There’s also an undercurrent of characters hiding their past from others, in part to disguise mistakes they have made, and partially to protect loved ones from mistakes, passion and uncontrollable urges.

The performances, too, are solid throughout, working around the script as best they can. Despite her script lacking in detail, Claire Denis is a good director and keeps the camera close to the actors at all times. It’s an almost intimate approach to the narrative, and entirely fitting under the circumstances.

This is the first film from Claire Denis that I’ve seen. It’s likely that I will seek out some of her other works eventually, but I’ll admit that I’m not in a massive rush to do so. There’s some very good ideas here that are hidden by a script that doesn’t serve the story or the characters well enough. That is perhaps the only serious complaint I can raise. And, sadly, it’s more than enough to stop me from outright recommending Trouble Every Day as a film you should watch.

Nightmare City (1980) movie review


Facts and Comments
1. Watched on 21 May 2018
2. These zombies have surprisingly perfect teeth. They must use Colgate.
3. Invisible lawnmowing zombies – I knew it!
5. Priest with a candle takes on bearded man with a candlestick. Check and mate.

Plot Summary in 280 characters
Not-quite zombies attack the living. Meanwhile a reporter tries to escape the attack with his surgeon wife.

Atomic power is a bad thing! It’s messing with nature, man!

Fast or Slow zombies?

I’ll admit, and long time readers will know, that I am partial to a bit of zombie action. The best zombie things have two things – plenty of gore and violence, and a theme that makes a point about something. George Romero was the best at doing this. His series of zombie movies covered everything from racism to commercialism to the widespread and occasionally ludicrous use of social media (go on, check out Diary of the Dead).

The success of the zombie genre throughout the 1970s led to low budget Italian zombie flicks flooding the market. Two of the most notable names from that era are Lucio Fulci and Umberto Lenzi. While Fulci is responsible for some of the best low budget Italian horror movies of that period, Lenzi also made a significant impact. All those films played on specific themes, and Nightmare City is no different.

The theme is nuclear power and the dangers it presents. Now, it’s highly unlikely that nuclear energy would ever create a zombie apocalypse, but just go with it, okay? It’s entirely representative of the time it was made, so nuclear power is always going to be the big bad.

And of course, all the trappings and clichés of the sub-genre are present. Crash zooms abound, albeit perhaps used slightly more sparingly than Fulci. Lots of people are killed in a gruesome manner, even if many of those deaths could have easily been avoided. Most of those bitten by zombies go to their fate almost willingly, half-heartedly fighting the undead off whilst offering a glimpse of flesh for them to nibble on. There’s even a Goblin-esque soundtrack to emphasise that this isn’t an entirely original production.

The zombies look pretty good for the time, like they have all suffered horrible radiation burns and then decayed. In many respects they are like a living dead version of the Toxic Avenger. It’s fine work from the makeup and/or special effects teams on the film crew, but not spectacular. That’s all fine until you see their teeth. These zombies must have an incredible dentist, because despite the horrific injuries to their skin their teeth are all perfect. You’d think a detail like this would have been spotted, certainly after going to so much effort to make the zombies look properly dead. But alas, that’s not the case.

There are also the unfortunate misogynistic aspects that are prevalent through the grindhouse and video nasty type movies released at this time. Women are bit-part characters, there mainly to scream and be saved by their husbands or other burly men. This is despite them often working in quite high profile roles – in this instance the lead female character is a surgeon. Inevitably this approach leads to lots and lots of women – rather unnecessarily – being stripped of their clothes by zombies before they are bitten. In some instances they are bitten on the chest and… well, bits are ripped off. It’s unpleasant not because of the gore but the gender politics at play.

There’s a fine line between an enjoyably bad film and a painfully bad one. Nightmare City falls just about on the right side of that divide, a cheese-infested guilty pleasure.

The Marine 3: Homefront (2013) movie review


I’ll admit to approaching this franchise a little bit backwards. I watched The Marine if not on release then shortly thereafter. My next film was The Marine 4: Moving Target in 2015. And I think that one was because it showed up on Now TV. So, until Summer 2018 I had not seen this, the film that introduces Mike “The Miz” Mizanin as its star. And it’d be hard to call him anything else now that he has three “Marine” films under his belt and, apparently, a fourth one on the way.

Not that this backwards way of watching the series has had any impact on my enjoyment. There’s no continuity between them whatsoever, so it’s possible to watch them in isolation and not have to worry at all about continuity or such.

The same can’t be said for the plot, which is standard action fare. The Marine 3: Homefront introduces us to Jake Carter, a marine who has just returned to his home town following a period of service. Shortly thereafter, his sister witnesses a terrorist (Neal McDonough) shoot a guy (IN THE FACE) and she is taken hostage. Working with and sometimes against the local police and Feds, Carter puts to use his own particular set of skills in order to free her.

One thing I can appreciate about the Marine franchise is its villains. They’re always inevitably set to fail, but their reasons and motivations are generally well structured and believable. Here, McDonough’s Jonah Pope (a typical example from the movie villain name generator) wants to teach the US government an example, making a point about how they never look after the little guy. Fair enough, but blowing stuff up will generally get you a prison sentence or worse. It seems that Pope didn’t read that memo.

The script has a number of double bluffs and enough twists to keep you engaged, but there’s little else to it beyond that. It’s generally by the numbers and produced on a budget. Most of the action takes place in a single location, namely the moored boat that the terrorists take residence on as they plot their nefarious scheme. From my many years of watching Stargate, it’s also obvious that filming took place in Canada. I’d recognise those forests every time.

The good news is that The Miz is far better than Ted DiBiase Jr, and I would say better than John Cena too. At least Carter has a bit of personality to him besides being a dumb jock. Now, I appreciate that Cena has gone on to develop a half decent movie career, but The Marine was not a great gateway for the showing off the stuff he’s good at. Here Carter’s character balances nicely with The Miz’s own personality, and he’s more than capable of putting on a show of physicality. It’s here in the action sequences that The Marine 3 shines, even if they are unfortunately all too brief.

As generic as it can be at times, I’d say there’s enough here to entertain. A few tweaks here and there, and maybe a slightly larger budget could have helped. As it is, it’s perfect as a mindless Friday night action movie.

The Marine 2 (2009) movie review


Ever wondered what it would be like if Die Hard took place at a tropical holiday resort? Well whether you wanted it or not, The Marine 2 delivers exactly that. Well, it delivers exactly that but without all the high octane action and adventure of that film. While the location shoot looks very nice (no doubt a great little holiday for all involved), it’s not that great a film.

Joe Linwood (Ted DiBiase – the younger) is on an island resort with his wife Robin (Lara Cox). She’s there on business for her generally unpleasant boss Darren (Robert Coleby). Then terrorists arrive, take most of the guests hostage, including Robin, and Joe has to work to save them. If the Die Hard parallel wasn’t obvious before, that should clear up any confusion.

But as a Die Hard clone, is it any good? Not really, no. Sure, the likes of Michael Rooker and Temuera Morrison are reliable enough, but there’s not enough meat on the script to really stretch their abilities. Morrison gets more from the script than Rooker, mostly because he gets to play the bad guy. He plans on teaching these rich people a lesson, something about Western expansion into indigenous cultures or something. He’s surrounded by a group of faceless/nameless henchmen that exist solely so they can be bumped off by our heroic lead. Rooker meanwhile gets to wisecrack and make light of almost everything – in other words, playing it perfectly to the established WWE Films formula. He’s not quite the sidekick, but that’s essentially his role.

So what about our lead, Ted DiBiase Jr? As you might expect, he’s very good at the physical action sequences, of which there are a fair few. For everything else he’s about as wooden as driftwood floating through the marina. He’s never asked to emote anything beyond mild confusion and, occasionally, broadly angry. It’s a shame because with a little more effort from all involved he could have provided a decent performance.

The only scene I liked the look of was the opening missile attack by the terrorists. Thankfully director Roel Reine doesn’t follow in the footsteps of John Bonito, who directed the first film. Bonito has an 80s-style obsession with filming an explosion from twenty different angles. Reine has his own grittier visual style and it suits the film well. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t make the terrorists a credible threat like Hans Gruber and his crew were.

If you’re looking for a cheap action film that doesn’t ask you to think about it too much, then this might be the one for you. For everyone else, and those who are more discerning about their action movie choices, a few mildly entertaining action sequences aren’t enough.

And they missed a trick by not having DiBiase replicate his father’s maniacal laugh. Just once would have been enough. Look, I know that was never his gimmick in WWE, but it would have been a fun nod and a wink to the audience at least. Hey ho.

Le Silence de la Mer (1949) movie review


The year is 1941. War has engulfed Europe and France has fallen to the Germans. It is a time of great upheaval, a genuine threat to the established order, to culture and history.

When local Nazi official Werner von Ebrennac takes up forced residence in a French home, the occupants, an old man and his niece, do as ordered, but otherwise they do not speak to him or even acknowledge his existence. So, he spends his evenings regaling them with stories of his life, going back to his youth, his past loves, his role in the army. He monologues, never inviting their response – knowing all too well that he will not receive one.

To cloud matters, von Ebrennac seems like a decent sort. He’s respectful of the house and its inhabitants. Quite the opposite of the vile stereotype Nazi that has become prevalent and, undoubtedly, formed a huge part of public opinion at the time.

It’s a surprisingly forward thinking position for a film to take in 1949, the war and its atrocities fresh in the public’s memory. More so as von Ebrennac’s personality becomes more established. We learn almost nothing about his French hosts by comparison, only that they are glad to discover that he is a half decent person.

The thing is, there is an element of principle to their silence. Once a certain amount of time passes their resolve wavers, albeit briefly, until it becomes an established part of the routine, nigh on impossible to break whilst he remains living under their roof.

Other than the old man looking like Bob Mortimer hastily made to look like an old man, I couldn’t fault the production. It is a resolutely simple idea executed well. von Ebrennac may journey to Paris, or the characters may go for a walk around the snowy streets of their home town, but the majority of it takes place in a small lounge complete with fireplace and a piano/organ.

In the context of this story, von Ebrennac is one such man. His reaction at discovering the purpose of the Treblinka camp is heartfelt and from a genuine position of dislike. Here is a man who applauds culture no matter which country it originated from, praising the French philosophers as equally as he does German classical artists. This slow build of his character makes his objections to the death camps all the more believable.

To sum up the story overall, it is a plain and simple character study and doesn’t try to be anything more than that. It emphasises that you cannot tar everyone with the same brush. It is easy to vilify the Nazis and the German people who knew of the death camps but did nothing to stop the atrocities. But there would have been many more who did something, in their own way, to fight back against it.

In the grand scheme of things this might not be much, but in isolation it’s a potent gesture all the same. And that, really, is the point. Individually we may not have the ability to affect change on a grand scale, but in small ways we can make a difference. At the very least, like von Ebrennac, you can maintain your sense of honour and pride in your nation whilst also setting yourself apart from the butchers that have tarnished that once impeccable reputation.