Neil Marshall's Centurion features a commitment to craft that helps overcome issues of storytelling by providing a visceral, violent experience designed to get you in your gut and bones more than in your heart or head. This is a brutal film about people determined to fight for their own cause, even if they're not completely clear on the purpose or inception of said cause. Unlike the cold experience of something like 300 or the trippy journey of a film like Valhalla Rising, Centurion strives for that rare feeling of realism in a period action/adventure with only a few stylish flourishes. With a very talented cast, Marshall returns to the form displayed by The Descent after the relative failure of the misstep of Doomsday and reminds us why he's been such a buzzed-about director in the first place.
In 117 A.D., the Roman Empire was on the fast track to take over the entire planet. A group of Roman Centurions was advancing through Britain and when they reached the northern edge of what would become the United Kingdom they stumbled upon a group of inhabitants known as the Picts. These violent warriors stood their ground and the legend goes that the Ninth Legion disappeared into the mist. Marshall uses this legend to draw characters within the myth starting with Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender of Hunger and Inglourious Basterds) and the leader Virilus (Dominic West of The Wire) on the side of the Romans and the deadly Etain (Olga Kurylenko) on the side of the Picts. Character development is minimal as location and battle were clearly the production priority but the great Fassbender and Kurylenko find a way to make an impact despite being sketchily written. Marshall's wife Axelle Carolyn and the rising star Imogen Poots (Solitary Man) are also memorable in small roles.
When I think of Centurion I think of dirt and blood....Read More
It's safe to say Ben Affleck has finally found his niche – the grittier side of Boston. First, he directed a fine film based on the Dennis Lehane novel Gone Baby Gone. Now he goes back to the well and turns Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves into the powerful, and wonderfully cast, crime thriller, The Town. I've always been a Ben Affleck fan, but to those still...Read More
The brainchild of producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, founders of the website FunnyorDie.com, The Virginity Hit chronicles the quest of one high school student, Matt (Matt Bennett), to lose his virginity. Although Matt had been waiting to lose his virginity to his long-time (in high school terms) girlfriend Nicole (Nicole Weaver), after learning Nicole cheated on him at a fraternity party he decides to go an alternate...Read More
Ever since Casey Affleck started following his increasingly-erratic brother-in-law around with a camera, ostensibly making a film about Joaquin Phoenix's blossoming hip-hop career in the wake of the two-time Oscar nominee's retirement from acting, the question regarding I'm Still Here has been if it's a documentary or merely an elaborate hoax. Is it a film that honestly captures the truly-awful behavior of the sometimes-maniacal Phoenix during a rough...Read More
Fatih Akin is one of the world's most interesting filmmakers. Head-On (2004) was his first international statement but it was Edge of Heaven (2007) that really changed everything, winning Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival and creating critical waves around the world. If you haven't seen it, you're missing one of the best films of the 2000s. Edge of Heaven was a complex emotional gauntlet and so...Read More
Two of our greatest living actors – Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn – help the otherwise-generic Lovely, Still get over most of its screenwriting speed bumps although a twist in the final act makes the genuine nature of the first half of the film ring false. The problem with gigantic twists, even when they're as obvious and telegraphed as this one, is that they can often make the...Read More
What works hysterically in a two-minute fake preview does not necessarily translate to a feature film. Such is the lesson learned from Robert Rodriguez's disappointing Machete, an action orgy that definitely has a few funny scenes and cleverly-executed concepts but simply wears out its welcome with repetition and general stupidity. You know that guy at a party who tells very funny stories near the beginning of the night...Read More
Amir Bar-Lev's The Tillman Story is one of the most infuriating documentaries ever made. And I mean that as the highest compliment. I walked out of this document of an absolutely shameful chapter of our nation's history and the evil men who made it possible and it felt like my skin was on fire. I wanted to scream I was so furious. Furious at the weak men who...Read More
In an early scene in Mesrine: Public Enemy #1, the title character is robbing a bank when he sees another bank across the street and decides to try and take that one down in the same robbery. Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) was not a man who often planned his criminal acts as much as acted as something like a stream-of-consciousness madman. It's not long after that that he's...Read More
Anton Corbijn's The American feels like an art house film, possibly one made completely by Europeans, that just happens to have one of our country's biggest stars, George Clooney, in the lead role. Consequently, Focus Features clearly has NO idea what to do with it and are burying it with a quiet September 1st release and very few advance screenings. The film can't be pitched to Middle America...Read More