Friday, December 24, 2010

True Grit: A Christmas Story

My family has some Christmas traditions. Most families do, I would assume. My friend Kate goes to Denny's every Christmas Eve. Your family has some sort of Christmas tradition, doesn't it? Of course it does. Well, for years, I've spent Christmas Eve with my dad. Some times ago...I don't know when, but probably close to 15 years ago, we started to go see a movie on Christmas Eve. The first one I remember was the Jean Claude Van Damme masterpiece Sudden Death. Star Trek:First Contact was another one. There have been many movies over many years. And, it started that the 6 of us went as a family to the same movie. Myself, my dad, my step mom, my brother, my half brother and my half sister. Over the years, this changed. We still go to the movies, but, like this year, we see different ones. My half brother went to see the new Tron, my step mom and half sister went to see the new Chronicles of Narnia movie, and my dad and I went to see True Grit.

It's worth noting a few things. 1) I don't generally care for westerns. No real reason other than they aren't my proverbial cup of tea. 2) I never saw the original True Grit. And it's likely that I never will. I don't care for John Wayne. The idea of sitting through one of his movies make me long for the dentist's chair. To the many John Wayne fans in the world: Sorry. That's just the way I feel. 3) My dad does like westerns, and he does like John Wayne. And while he would have been happy seeing Tron or something else, he was definitely excited when I mentioned that I'd like to see True Grit. It's more his kind of movie that mine.

In the end though, I kind of got the impression that I liked True Grit a bit more than he did. And while I can't speak for him, I can tell you a bit of what I thought about it.

I liked Jeff Bridges in it. I found his portrayal of Rooster to be gruff while still somewhat charming. I didn't particularly care for Matt Damon as Le Beouf. I just found him strangely unnatural as a Texas Ranger. Hailee Steinfeld, however, I found to be excellent as Mattie. My biggest problem with the movie, really, was the dialogue. It just felt so unnatural to me. I can't remember a single contraction. No 'didn't', no 'could've', it was 'did not' and 'could have', and people just don't talk that way. Outside of Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation everyone uses contractions. And I found this jarring at times. If that's my biggest complaint though, then I hardly have a complaint at all.

I know this isn't much of a review, and it isn't really meant to be. If you want a review, Alex over at Film Forager did a great job, and I'd recommend you read that. My intention was more to talk about my family's Christmas tradition. And on that note, Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A trailer on a Tuesday: Hanna

I know this is making the rounds today, but it looks damn cool.

Friday, December 17, 2010

So...that was Centurion

I'm going to preface this by telling you that I like Neil Marshall's movies. Dog Soldiers? Awesome. The Descent? Amazing. Doomsday? So much fun. So, going into the movie, good or not, I expected to like it.

It's also worth noting that I have more than a fleeting interest in Roman history. The Romans were, in a word, fascinating. Their history is littered with names and events that are recognizable to grade school kids; the wares with Carthage and Hannibal coming over the Alps, the rise of Julius Caesar and his assassination.Their history is full of heroes and villains that you wouldn't need to make anything up to keep an audience enthralled for a couple of hours.

Centurion is an almost entirely made up story. Things in the movie that are true: Titus Flavius Virilus actually existed and the 9th Legion was an actual legion that kind of sort of disappeared around 117 AD. Things in the movie that are made up: Pretty much everything else.

The movie starts in a Roman outpost. The outpost is attacked one night by Rome's enemy in what is today called Scotland, the Picts. The attacking Picts utterly annihilate the Roman troops in the outpost. One man, who happens to speak Pictish is taken prisoner. This man is Quintus Dias, the titular centurion.

The Roman response is to send in the 9th Legion. This is essentially the second century version of Shock and Awe. The assumption is that if they send in a full legion, the Picts will be put down forever.

Meanwhile, the Picts torture Quintus, hoping to get some idea of Rome's plans. Quintas, however, manages to escape his prison. He is found in the woods by the 9th Legion, which he promptly becomes a part of. After a brief stop, the 9th marches on only to be ambushed and decimated in the woods. And when I say decimated, I mean it. A legion could have 1000 soldiers in it! At the end of the battle, there are only 6 survivors among the soldier and the general of the legion, who has been taken prisoner by the Picts.

Quintus takes command of the 'legion' and leads them to try to rescue their general. However, in the process, they kill the Pictish king's son. This, naturally does not please the Pictish king. He sets their tracker, Etain, to hunt the soldiers down and kill them.

Now, I haven't mentioned Etain yet. So, let me tell you about her. Actually, wait a minute. Before I tell you about her, let's use an idea that I had almost two months ago. Consider this a warning:

Get it? Spoiler alert!

Etain is the tracker that the 9th Legion was given to lead them to the Picts to defeat them. However, she betrayed the Romans and led them into the ambush. She is the ultimate hunter and she HATES the Romans. See, when she was younger, the Romans attacked her village. They murdered her father, they raped her mother and they made her watch. Then, they raped her. Finally, they cut out her tongue. So, her hatred is understandable. It, however, does not change that she is the villain in this story.

Ultimately, Centurion is a chase movie. Quintus must try to lead his remaining troops home with Etain and the Picts trying to kill them. It's bloody, gory and very over the top. That's okay though. That's what you expect from a Neil Marshall film. If you pick this up off the shelf expecting an accurate historical drama, you'd be sadly mistaken.

There are problems with this movie. The characters are all paper thin. You understand Etain's motivations, but most of the characters just aren't very fleshed out. In fact, characters like Vortix and Aeron are not just undeveloped, but barely used. The actors themselves do a fine job with what little character they've been given to work with. Dominic West, Michael Fassbender and Olga Kurylenko are all fantastic in their roles and 28 Weeks Later's Imogen Poots was a nice addition to the cast.

Yes, it's a weak plot and has weaker characters, but that's not what you watch Neil Marshall's movies for. Frankly, it's a fun movie. It's entertaining. That has to count for something. Objectively, I would say it's not a very good movie, but subjectively it's pretty cool. I know I'll want to sit down and watch it again. Not to look for things I missed, or to look at it any differently, but to be entertained and enjoy watching a fun movie.

PS: If you're interested in learning more about Roman history, and you like podcasts, I cannot recommend The History of Rome podcast enough. Mike Duncan does an amazing job of putting together an excellent show each week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In which I'm okay with Heimdall being black

I've not watched the trailer for Thor yet. Not too worried about it, but I saw this article earlier:

'Thor' Early Buzz: Well, Racists Hate It - The Moviefone Blog:

"Elba, meanwhile, stated: 'There has been a big debate about it: Can a black man play a Nordic character? Hang about, Thor's mythical, right? Thor has a hammer that flies to him when he clicks his fingers. That's okay, but the colour of my skin is wrong?'"


Also, to the Council of Conservative Citizens: Fuck you.

And then Dead Woods had a trailer

Now that Dead Woods has a website, I can finally start to share more info about it with you! Specifically, the trailer, which has been floating around Facebook for a while now, is on YouTube!

Keep an eye on this space...I'm hearing some rumors that there might be something special from Dead Woods for xmas!

Also, because I always find this sort of thing fun, some behind the scenes action:

Yeah...none of us actually got paid with anything besides beer. And we were always paid before we started shooting...first time director's mistake number 1.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Song of the Day - Sukie in the Graveyard by Belle & Sebastian

No explanation for this one. I just like the song.

So, I was in this movie

You may remember me mentioning once or twice a movie I was in that my friend was directing, well, big news! There's finally an actual, sort of, website for it!

The website was my wrap/xmas gift to the director. There will be more coming to it soon (I would assume). There is also a twitter account for it @deadwoodsmovie