Happy St. Paddy’s Day – Jekyll Centurion In The Grey Bruges

Well no green beer for me this year but I thought I’d highlight some films from my favorite Irish actors.

The Grey

 

The Grey (2012) – Rated R

After narrowly surviving a deadly plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, a band of oil riggers must battle the elements — and a pack of wolves.

Obviously, Liam Neeson kicks serious butt. He currently stars in Non-Stop which was a lot of (nonsensical) fun AND The Lego Movie (as Good Cop/Bad Cop) which was even more fun. While I enjoy his action movies, The Grey is not actually the survival story the trailer would have you believe. Instead it’s a wonderful existential treatise on life and death disguised as a survival movie.

Jekyll

Jekyll (2007) – TV-14

In modern-day London, Dr. Jekyll’s last living descendant believes he can control his dark side, but a secret society has other plans for him.”

James Nesbitt is a favorite Irish actor of mine, mostly for this British miniseries. He is just fine as Jekyll but the first time you see him as Hyde, you’ll be hooked. He currently stars as Bofur in The Hobbit movies.

In Bruges

In Bruges (2008) – Rated R

After a job goes wrong in London, two hit men are ordered to lay low at a bed-and-breakfast in Bruges, Belgium, until their boss contacts them.”

In Bruges features two of my favorite Irish actors. When he isn’t getting into trouble, Colin Farrell is quite the charmer and Brendan Gleeson is always good, usually better than his material deserves. In Bruges is absolutely hysterical, an understated gem from the folks that made Seven Psychopaths (also hysterical)

Centurion

Centurion (2010) – Rated R

In 2nd-century Britain, a famed centurion and a handful of Roman soldiers try to survive behind enemy lines after Pict tribesmen decimate the platoon.”

I really enjoy Liam Cunningham in everything. Lately I’ve caught him as Davos in Game of Thrones but that obviously isn’t on Netflix. Netflix does stream Centurion, in which Liam has a supporting role. Not only that but it has Michael Fassbender in a starring role. In spite of that, the movie is stolen by Dominic West as General Virilus and Olga Kurylenko as Etain.

 

Watch the Bard Week: Coriolanus

Coriolanus is currently available on instant Netflix

One-Line Review: Excellent updating of Shakespeare’s play.

CoriolanusCoriolanus (2011) – Rated R

Actor Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut with this modern update of Shakespeare’s tale about the arrogant general who is banished by the republic he has protected at all costs, provoking him to ally with former foes and wreck a bloody revenge.”

He that will give good words to thee will flatter beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs that like nor peace nor war? The one affrights you, the other makes you proud. He that trusts to you where he should find you lions, finds you hares; where foxes, geese. Who deserves greatness, deserves your hate.”

We initially started to watch Coriolanus some time ago but had to quickly stop it because of our granddaughter. We had not noticed the R rating when it came on – be assured this movie is quite violent and not for the kiddies. We finally got a chance to watch it recently, sans child.

During the 90s, Ralph Fiennes quickly shot up the acting charts, landing the romantic lead in Wuthering Heights and being nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. He received a Best Actor nomination as the romantic lead in The English Patient and this would normally have cemented him as a leading man. Unfortunately the science fiction epic Strange Days and attempted blockbuster The Avengers (1998) were complete bombs at the box office and Fiennes was relegated to smaller films, smaller roles, and voiceover work.

In 2005, he landed the plum role of Voldemoort in the Harry Potter series. Unfortunately, when he was cast as Hades in Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans, they essentially made him redo Voldemoort. Perhaps this is what caused him to move into directing with Coriolanus.

Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s more obscure plays. Fiennes updates it, making it a modern conflict and using the play to say a lot of things about politics and the media. In this it succeeds quite well, once again showing the Bard as relevant as ever. The combat is handled impressively, albeit on a small scale. Coriolanus has a nice crowd-turning scene a la Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar.

Ralph Fiennes is quite impressive as the arrogant Caius Martius Coriolanus. Gerard Butler acquits himself nicely as his foe, Tullus Aufidius, in both the action sequences and the dialogue. Brian Cox, James Nesbitt, and Paul Jesson engage as politicians. Vanessa Redgrave shines as Volumnia, mother to Coriolanus. Jessica Chastain has less to do as Virgilia, Coriolanus’ wife.

The majority of Coriolanus was filmed in Serbia. If you read the credits, most of the non-speaking roles are filled with names ending in ‘vic’. It is somewhat ironic as Coriolanus details strife between the Romans and the Volsces. The industrial look found in most Serbian films is found here as well but it works quite well in context.

Fiennes’ direction is assured. Cinematography is excellent. Action sequences are exciting and Shakespeare’s marvelous language survives intact. This is the counterpoint to Taymor’s dreadfully campy Titus Andronicus.

Coriolanus has been on Netflix for a while so catch it before it disappears.

 

Outcast & Bloody Disgusting Selects

I love horror movies that are different. I loved the first entries from the After Dark line but then they went downhill. The Ghost House imprint from Sam Raimi then picked up the ball but didn’t go far. Netflix just got a batch of films from the latest horror imprint, Bloody Disgusting Selects. Outcast is currently available on instant Netflix.

Outcast (2010) – Rated R

“Mary and her son, Fergal, are Irish nomads in a shadowy world of magic, where a deadly hunter stalks their every move. When Fergal falls in love with Petronella, a beautiful girl in their new village, it makes mother and son easy targets.”

I love fresh takes in the horror genre. Outcast is a very interesting update of Irish mythology set in the gloomy world of British subsidized housing. This by itself sets it apart from all other horror movies. The story is generally good, pretty literate and fairly fascinating.

The acting is good but not great. James Nesbitt is a wonderful actor. His performance as the titular Jekyll (and Hyde as well of course) is a blast and honestly I’d recommend watching that instead. Here he is the antagonist but he just doesn’t shine as much as he should. Kate Dickie (Lysa Arryn on Game of Thrones) does a good job as the protective mother, Mary. The young people are acceptable but not much more than that. Our protagonist Fergal is played by newcomer Niall Bruton.

Unfortunately while the background story is good, unique and interesting, the plotting, especially the third act is beyond lazy. Every little step of everything that occurs leading up to, during, and after the climax is telegraphed and predictable.

While definitely a missed opportunity, Outcast is still fascinating and different.

Note: While this is a foreign film, no reading of subtitles is necessary. Accents are, at times, thick but understandable.

People Watch: Character actor James Cosmo plays Laird here. He has also played in everything from Battle of Britain (1969) up through Highlander and Braveheart and lately Jeor Mormont in Game of Thrones.

Jekyll

There have been a huge number of adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with actors as diverse as Fredric March, Michael Caine, Boris Karloff, and Christopher Lee playing the titular roles. Hammer even pulled a gender switch with Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde with Ralph Bates and Martine Beswick alternating. The 1941 version with Spencer Tracy, the 1920 silent version with John Barrymore, 2006’s version with Tony Todd, Mary Reilly with John Malkovich and an excellent BBC miniseries are all available on instant play.

Jekyll

WATCH: Jekyll (2007) – “In modern-day London, Dr. Jekyll’s last living descendant, Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt), carries on his famous ancestor’s legacy. Tom believes he can control his dark side and protect his wife and children, but a secret society that’s followed the Jekyll family line for a hundred years has plans for both halves of Tom’s personality. Gina Bellman and Michelle Ryan co-star in this offbeat adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic.”

The entire cast is quite wonderful in this sequel of sorts to the original story but James Nesbitt is absolutely riveting as Jekyll/Jackman and then fabulously flamboyantly over the top as Hyde. His performance alone is a reason to recommend this miniseries. I’m trying not to say too much in this recommendation so as not to spoil the surprises of the show. The real drawback to this story is that it is only 6 episodes long – trust me you’ll want more by the time it ends and it definitely wraps up too abruptly.

AVOID: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) – Generally having Spencer Tracy in a film would be a reason to recommend it. Here however Spencer Tracy is woefully miscast. He plays both roles so similarly that it seems as though there is no difference between the two – and while that would make for an interesting interpretation of the story it does not appear intentional. Also why would you film a remake a mere 10 years after Fredric March won the Oscar for the same role?