Tag Archives: Crusaders

Valhalla Rising: Silence Galore

Silence is not the immediate reaction I had to this movie. I was in shock and awe by the brilliant landscapes and brutal style of the film, but not silenced because of some distaste for this movie. You have to be silent in order to soak this movie in. It’s not often that a movie deals entirely with the image presented in order to tell a story. This movie, in a phrase, is old school. This may as well be a badass silent action film. That’s exactly what I took away from it.

And this is all Nicolas Winding Refn’s intent. After having seen (and reviewed) his other

Does this actor never have a left eye?

film, Drive, I don’t think I can get enough of what this Danish director is bringing to the table. With an archaic and visceral feel to this movie, it plays out in a slow manner, but many of the scenes will stand out to you in your mind way after its all been played out. Same thing goes for Drive too.

If I had to guess how many pages the dialogue took up in this film, I’d probably say a total of 5-6 pages. And that’s all it took to portray the characters onscreen. You know One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) is a hardass who never found his voice and expresses himself

The brutality of the Danish.

in violent outbursts. You even have a young child actor, named The Boy (Maarten Stevenson) who understands the idea of dramatic timing and delivery in this film. And that’s rare in such a adult themed film. Saying less gives so much more, and that’s what this film knew how to do.

Basic plot, everyone?

So, One-Eye (Mikkelsen) is a slave held in Scotland against his will. He is passed from barbaric tribe to barbaric tribe in order to fight and kill for the honor of the tribe that owns him. He is such a good fighter, that he has to be leashed up in order to set him at the same level as other fighters. Sleeping in a cage all night with little food or contact with others, he befriends The Boy (Stevenson), who shows him the only kindness he’ll ever know.

Upon being switched between tribes, One-Eye uses the almost-prophetic visions in red he receives at the beginning of

Refn and the gang!

the film in order to kill and escape. Kidnapping The Boy, he heads off for freedom. But not before he encounters a roving band of Crusaders looking and itching for a Crusade to wage. With One-Eye and The Boy in tow, the Christians take them on a boat ride to Hell, and eventually the new world.

As I said earlier, the locales are what impressed me most about this movie. Being shot in Scotland, I had little basis for what it actually looked like in a real context, and so this movie works on all levels for Scotland and America. The absence of human life really works well to isolate the feeling of the film, heightening the chances of death and lack of social norms in a clearly barbaric society. No one is safe in this

It doesn’t get more unsettling than this.

film, and it almost makes you feel uncomfortable when people turn on each other for survival.

Mikkelsen, that one-eyed badass from Casino Royale, is just as good in this movie as well. The cast is relatively unknown to me, which really works for this movie. Because who would be recognizable way back in 1000 A.D.? I just wanna give a lot of credit to the special effects and

Picturesque.

make-up people as well in this movie, because I’ve never seen a more realistic head bashing than in this movie. Visually brutal to the point where your eyes bleed. Hardcore shizz.

The overall delivery was right up my alley. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for an artistically brutal and human psyche revealing film. It’ll make people uncomfortable, but it’ll be an unforgettable experience in the end. No real complaints, 8.9 out of 10.

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Season of the Witch: Get Your Cage On

I'm liking this.

In the same vein as Black Death and watched only a few nights afterwards, I came to the realization as to why this movie didn’t work for me. It’s not Nic Cage or Ron Pearlman. It’s not the lackluster accents put on by the cast. It’s not the Rock ‘n’ Roll ahead approach to the plot. It’s the fact that I didn’t feel that any of these actors were ever meant to or destined to star in period pieces. As in Black Death, Sean Bean was specifically bred and born to play the role of a Medieval knight. In Nic Cage’s case, I’m not at all positive. Sure, Ron Pearlman has wielded a sword in In the Name of a King (come to think of it, even Jason Statham can’t play an English peasant…) but Pearlman’s body size is really only perfect for Hellboy and Blade II.

And, in this manner, I was removed from fully immersing myself and enjoying the plot presented in Season of the Witch. (Original title idea for Scorsese’s

Do you believe this wench to be a witch?

Mean Streets.) I had to watch this though. My goal in life is to watch the entire career of Nicholas Cage in full. All the way from Fast Times at Ridgemont High down to Ghost Rider 5 (I hope…). I’ll take all the good (The Cage Renaissance) all the way down to his money problems (National Treasure and onwards… for now…). Seeing as this Medieval film really fits this quota, let’s dissect it.

Nic Cage and his flowing locks of sultry power.

So Behmen (Nicholas Cage) and Felson (Ron Pearlman) are two ex-crusaders. And to say that, I mean that after many wars, these two decided all the killing wasn’t worth it anymore. And I gotta say, some pretty pimp-ass helmets as well. They look like cauldrons. Whatever floats your boat. So these two ruffians hustle it back to Germany just in time to find that the Black Plague has hit Europe. (Actually accurate that a lot of Crusaders missed that bit in history.) Discovered in some barn area that they are wanted by the Church, these two duel for a quick second and then are whisked off to meet with Cardinal D’Ambroise (Christopher Lee).

Haggard as ever and possessed by the plague, the Cardinal orders these two men to escort a suspected witch to a hidden monk’s shindig house in order to LIFT THE ENTIRE CURSE OF THE BLACK PLAGUE. All because of one girl?

Read, Deballsack!

Unlikely… But that’s beside the point. So the two agree to avoid jail/death, and they assemble their Super Squad. First up we got Debelzeq (Stephen Campbell Moore). This is pronounced De-ball-sack. Unfortunate, but an actual name. One of the more believable period piece actors, Moore brings a bit of the clergy to the screen. There’s Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen), the soft-spoken man with a heart of gold. He obviously can’t last. And there’s Hagamar the thief (Stephen Graham). He’s really not worth mentioning.

Robert Sheehan, the last bastion of hope in this film.

And then there’s the star of the show. Young altar boy turned knight, Kay von Wollenbarth (Robert Sheehan). This new up and coming actor stars in one of my favorite shows in the U.K., Misfits. This show (which will be reviewed soon) is a wonderful breakout role for Sheehan, and he has proved his mettle since then in Killing Bono and Red Riding. He’s really not given a chance to shine in this film with the limited script, but you’d barely recognize him. If only his Irish accent could flow from those lips in every film.

So, on this whirlwind roller coaster adventure, in every twist and turn, lives are at stake. Is Anna (Claire Foy) truly a witch? Or something more? Will Behmen and Felson survive? Only watching this movie from start to finish in hopefully one sitting will tell…

There’s really not much to say about anything else in this film, so I’ll summarize. The acting is a period piece, without a sense of the period. English accents failed to veil whatever was going on at the time. If those were even accents… I love the Cage, but when you want some Cage action, you expect a bit better from him. This one was toned down and I commend him for that action, but some more terror and mania was necessary. This supernatural film came across as realistic at first, and moved towards the CGI graphics and buffoonery towards the end. It seemed as if the movie was going in two different directions from start to finish. I don’t blame the actors or what was attempted onscreen, I would say the flaws started from the writing/pre-production phase. So, cast and  crew of Season of the Witch, you gave it your all, but you let Nicholas Cage down. And for that, the Cage vehicle of dastardly deeds gets a measly 3.3 out of 10.

This haggardly crew must fight the witch in this touching film of evil.